We all know that getting the right approach to population health management – at system, place and neighbourhood level – is far from straightforward. But it is a challenge that can be met if the health, care, and local government sectors work together in partnership.

Across all sectors, there is growing sense of common purpose around the issue, as illustrated by the senior figures from a wide range of organisations who took the time to join the Local Government Chronicle’s roundtable.

I want to be clear that NHS is not claiming to have invented population health management – many areas of the country are already using data and analysis in some form or another.

Indeed, any action by the NHS will always be a complement to – not a substitute for – the role of individuals, communities, the voluntary sector, local authorities, national government and businesses in shaping the health of the nation.

What we, with Public Health England, are keen to do is work with our partners in local government, and the voluntary and community services (VCS) sector to establish population health management as the lens with through which future plans are viewed by systems.

The big-ticket examples that demonstrate the gains to be had from a more preventative approach tend to be lifestyle related. Research suggests that health behaviours, such as smoking, diet and exercise, are the most important determinants of premature death.

But the benefits of a unified population health management approach have the potential to be more wide reaching. For example, we know that the toxic effects of air pollution, while a factor for everyone, disproportionately impact on the health and wellbeing of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Using data to build up a detailed picture of the local community will mean those most at risk can be identified and a range of health, care and environmental interventions can be implemented by the local NHS and councils. By routinely identifying and acting on these opportunities we will see better outcomes and reduced pressure on local services.

I like to think there is now a perceptible shift in focus – away from the different organisational cultures of the NHS and our local government; towards the common interests we share and the significant mutual benefits to be had by working together in a genuinely integrated way.

It’s so important that we continue to build and strengthen the partnership. That is the way to build the health of all our communities.

Jacquie White, Director of System Development, NHS England

Article originally published on the NHS England Blog, where you can read other blogs written by Jacquie White.