A PIONEERING scheme is bidding to strip South Tyneside of its unwanted image as a health blackspot.
Latest research shows the borough has higher than average risk rates for various cancers, heart disease, obesity, and breathing problems.
Meanwhile, smoking kills at least one person a day in South Tyneside, and is set to claim the lives of an estimated 428 people over the age of 35 from a smoking-related condition this year alone.
But there are hopes South Tyneside could lose its negative health image after it was chosen as one of only 14 national pioneer areas, aimed at aiding local people to help themselves to boost their health.
The self-help scheme will be piloted in Hebburn before being rolled out to the rest of South Tyneside, with experts set to work in the community to give people the facts and confidence to improve their own health.
Schools, community centres and health centres will be used to spread the pioneering health message, while information will also be available through local surgeries.
South Tyneside was selected as a health pioneer after more than 100 areas across the country expressed an interest in taking part, with the borough’s health and social integration plan highlighted as an example of national excellence.
Backed by the NHS, South Tyneside is the only area of the North East chosen to operate a pioneer scheme.
Coun John McCabe, chairman of the borough council’s people’s committee, which oversees health and wellbeing, said: “This is all about raising the bar with health education and information, calling on the expertise of more than 400 local health professionals.
“Obesity nationally is costing us £27bn a year.”
“Information will be made available through community and district nurses and GPs.
“One of the aims is to break the dependency culture we have with health services in South Tyneside and helping people to improve their own health, so that they know when it’s not necessary to visit hospital, by teaching them what help is available elsewhere.
“We know we have serious health issues in South Tyneside and the pioneer scheme aims to tackle those problems – for example, by getting people to stop smoking.
“If we persuade 100 people to quit smoking, I will consider the scheme a success.
“True, some may see this as simply a cost-cutting measure and there’s no separate budget for the scheme, but health workers will be involved in giving advice and information at workshops or by visiting schools or community centres.
“As a Hebburn councillor, I’m delighted the town has been chosen as the pilot area, and the scheme will start to fully operate soon.”
Simon Stevens, the recently appointed chief executive of NHS England, who visited the borough earlier this year, heard how South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust are working together to improve health and social care services.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “South Tyneside made its bid to become one of only 14 national pioneers with a view to empowering local people to help themselves.
“The programme aims to promote independence and self-care, to reduce over-reliance on statutory services in the long-term.
“We have held workshops for staff and the public in health, social care and the voluntary sector, to encourage the cultural and behavioural change necessary to achieve this vision.
“Staff will work collectively to support people to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to look after themselves more effectively and create a pathway of care, focused on their needs and the needs of their families.
“The programme is being piloted in Hebburn, and will then be rolled out across the borough.”