Children’s health has been flagged up as a particular concern in South Ribble.
The latest Health Profile for 2014 for the borough shows that three out of the five issues in the ‘children’s and young people’s health’ category are ‘significantly worse’ than the England average.
Women smoking while they are pregnant, the limited number of mums breast feeding, and alcohol-specific hospital stays for people aged under 18 are all causes for concern in the report.
South Ribble Council’s scrutiny committee set up a task group earlier in the year to recommend ways to reduce health inequality across the borough, particularly between the most deprived and least deprived areas.
Chairman Coun Michael Titherington believes the council can do more to educate residents about health and wellbeing, and promote healthy lifestyles to help bridge the gap.
Commenting on the Health Profile for South Ribble, he said: “The profile does have some positive aspects, particularly in relation to homelessness, unemployment, drug misuse and early deaths from cancer, all of which are better than the national average, but major concerns remain.
“The statistics relating to child health are a real worry with the rates of childhood obesity and alcohol related stays in hospital for under 18s quite alarming.
“The data around smoking and alcohol is a major cause for concern as is the rate of malignant melanoma.
“Life expectancy in the more deprived areas remains years less than elsewhere in the borough and with it a poorer quality of life. The gap has actually widened for men and slightly reduced for women since the 2013 report, but clearly the gap is not closing quickly enough.
“The South Ribble scrutiny task group on the Review of Health Inequalities considered these factors when arriving at our recommendations earlier this year.
“The thrust of our report identified and emphasised the need for the council to work with partners in a concerted and co-ordinated way if the issues raised in the profile are to be effectively addressed.
“The evidence is there to show that the environment into which you are born will be a major factor in how long you will live and whether you will enjoy general health and wellbeing.
“The profile reinforces this and with it the need to tackle health and wellbeing issues from an early age.”
He added: “We need to do our utmost to ensure a healthy lifestyle choice is made easier.
“For instance we need to double our efforts in making sure expectant mothers are fully aware of the impact their lifestyle during pregnancy may have on their child.
“Likewise with the population at large we need to highlight the dangers to health of smoking, alcohol abuse, poor eating habits and inactivity.
“This needs to be done not by demonising people but by tackling the factors that lead them into a lifestyle that may adversely affect their health and wellbeing.”
“The determinants of health are well known and for some, easy to follow, but for others circumstances make it more difficult and that needs to be understood and addressed.
“Among health service professionals, public health officials and politicians there is an acceptance that the ‘prevention is better than cure approach’ is the right one.
“The Lancashire County Council’s Starting Well, Living Well and Ageing Well strategy is designed to educate and promote healthy living from cradle to grave and is to be applauded.
“Having a strategy is one thing but the effectiveness of a strategy can only be measured in the outcomes it achieves.
“I believe the borough council has an important part to play in this regard and I hope the task group’s report has contributed in a positive way towards addressing those issues of concern raised in the profile. However, there is still much work to do.”
- For more details about the Health Profile’s findings, see this week’s Leyland Guardian.