Northumberland is in good health, says report

Northumberland residents are in good health '“ and getting healthier'“ a new report has concluded.

Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 8:00 am
Director of public health, Penny Spring.

Penny Spring, presenting her first annual report as director of public health at the county council, says there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about people’s health and wellbeing.

The 2015 report identifies a number of key achievements over the last 12 months and sets out a new approach to meeting the challenges that lie ahead.

The report finds a population with high levels of happiness and low levels of anxiety. Eighty per cent of adults are now smoke-free and 70 per cent of people who consume alcohol stay within the recommended weekly limits.

Northumberland residents can expect to live on average 63 years in good health (more than 75 per cent of their lives), but this varies across the county and there is work still to be done to narrow the gap where health inequalities exist.

It also sets out a new strategy for making Northumberland a healthier place to live, which stresses the importance of involving communities in identifying solutions for their health and wellbeing.

Penny said: “Northumberland is a county in good health overall and we have made significant progress in recent years towards improving the health of our residents. However, we recognise we still have lots to do to narrow the gap where health inequalities exit.

“Our new approach will focus on listening and responding to people’s concerns, working closely with our partners to make the best use of available resources and putting our assets such as our people and our natural environment to best use. In doing so, we aim to build resilience in our communities, promote high levels of wellbeing, address health inequalities across the county and extend the number of years that people live in good health.”

Other key achievements of the last 12 months include the continued growth of the Better Health at Work programme, with eight new businesses achieving the bronze standard, with an additional reach of 1,265 employees.

Another important piece of work was the residents’ perceptions survey, which established that 48 per cent of residents would be in favour of minimum unit pricing on alcohol, as a way to tackle underage drinking, antisocial behaviour, and binge drinking.

Coun Susan Dungworth, cabinet member for adult care and public health, said: “Penny’s annual report is a lively and informative document, which sets the right tone for the future, and gives encouragement about the overall health and happiness of people in Northumberland.

“Our communities know best what would make a difference to their health and wellbeing, so it seems to make perfect sense to have an approach that involves really listening to what local people have to say.”

The report also highlights a number of issues and challenges going forward. More than 16 per cent of pregnant women are still smoking at the time of delivery. And, even though two out of three children in Year 6 are a healthy weight, there is still a discrepancy between children from the most and least deprived areas of Northumberland.