In 2014 Dr Louise Lafortune and her Ageing Well research team at Cambridge’s Institute of Public Health were commissioned to conduct three rapid systematic reviews to inform NICE’s first ever guidelines on mid-life approaches to delaying or preventing the onset of dementia, disability and frailty in later life.
The team’s reviews found evidence that certain mid-life interventions were effective in promoting healthy behaviours, including interventions to help individuals increase physical activity, reduce or quit smoking and ensure a healthy weight. They also identified areas where the evidence was less robust, weak or lacking. This valuable information helped shape the NICE guidelines.
For example, the team found evidence that providing clear dietary advice can be effective in improving dietary behaviour, and the NICE guidelines advised that Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England should “Explain that regularly consuming meals, snacks and beverages high in salt, fats and sugars is bad for health [and] explain that a diet mainly based on vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, wholegrains and fish, is likely to improve their health.”
Building on that work, the team conducted three systematic reviews of studies of older populations living in the community. Two assessed the effectiveness of interventions that promote healthy behaviours and cognitive health. The third identified barriers and facilitators of behaviour change in these populations.
At PHE’s request, the team developed an evidence-based resource for commissioners and local authorities based on the reviews’ key findings. Published in 2016, the resource was intended to provide a steer determining what types of interventions local authority commissioners and clinical commissioning groups should uptake to promote cognitive health among older adults living in the community.
For a more in-depth account of the team’s case study work please go here.