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We can have a fitter future, say experts

HEALTHY OUTLOOK ... director of public health, Amanda Healy and Coun Faye Cunningham, the councils lead member for health and wellbeing, are hopeful the boroughs health will improve.

HEALTHY OUTLOOK ... director of public health, Amanda Healy and Coun Faye Cunningham, the councils lead member for health and wellbeing, are hopeful the boroughs health will improve.

HEALTH experts claim people in South Tyneside can have a fitter future despite the ‘massive challenge’ facing the borough.

Earlier this month, South Tyneside Council received its first annual report since taking over control of public health services from the now-defunct Primary Care Trust.

Compiled by the director of public health, Amanda Healy, the document revealed that – of the 32 categories outlined – South Tyneside was deemed “significantly worse” then average in no fewer than 20.

Particularly shocking was the statistic that 59,340 residents are classed as living in deprivation – 40.1 per cent of the population, compared with the English average of 20.3 per cent.

Despite the statistics, Ms Healy and Coun Faye Cunningham, the council’s lead member for health and wellbeing, are confident things will be changing.

Ms Healy said: “The report did look bleak and the figures are accurate.

“Things are starting to change, just not as quickly as we would like. We have a massive challenge ahead, but we are confident that in the next three to five years people will start to see vast improvements.”

Smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption are the main areas where the health team aims to concentrate its efforts.

They believe that, mastering this will, in turn, have a beneficial knock-on effect on a range of long-term diseases and reduce hospital admission rates.

Coun Cunningham said: “It’s a cultural thing, really. People need to be educated and advised on their wellbeing but we don’t want to be preaching. Nobody likes being told what to do.

“We are already working with schools.

“If we start with the young, then they will grow and be able to make their own wise decisions.”

Already 450 local authority employees have taken part in a ‘Make Every Contact Count’ scheme, which educates workers on helping themselves and others around them.

Ms Healy said: “We’ve had refuse collectors losing weight, councillors giving up smoking and housing employees spotting areas which may have issues with a range of substances.

“It’s the little steps like this, and working with people in the voluntary and community sectors, which will help make the changes needed.

“We are confident, that with the correct strategies in place and teams working together, then we will see the borough’s health and wellbeing improve, but it’s not something that can be done overnight.”

n A healthy challenge ... Page 6

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