By Tom Potter
Monday, February 4, 2013
CIVIC leaders have agreed a 10-year masterplan that will attempt to give everyone in Suffolk equal opportunity to improve their way of life.
The current status of health and wellbeing among different groups and communities in the county is laid out in the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Some of the topics covered include:
n The number of over 65s will grow by 56% over next 20 years;
n There is a 12-year difference in life expectancy between Kirkley in Lowestoft and Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds;
n One in six children are living in poverty;
n General affluence masks pockets of deprivation;
n Only 52% of children start school “ready to learn”;
n Although more people are being diagnosed with cancer, early death from the disease fell 34% between 1993 and 2010;
n And Suffolk has 66,109 “family carers” and 3,414 of them are aged five to 24. Their health and wellbeing is “essential”.
The Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy sets out four main priorities for the first three years of a decade-long initiative to improve the lifestyles of everyone in the county.
Suffolk County Council hopes the strategy will address a number of discouraging statistics demonstrating the problems faced by certain groups and communities which are masked by the county’s general prosperity.
The four central priorities are:
n ensuring every child in Suffolk has the best start in life;
n that older people have a good quality of life;
n that people have a chance to improve their mental health and wellbeing;
n and that people have access to a healthy environment and take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
The strategy needs to be established before April when the Health and Wellbeing board becomes a statutory body.
Concerns include taking care of an increasing older population, the one in six children living in poverty, and the inconsistency between different towns and villages just miles apart but separated by up to 12 years in life expectancy.
One of the strategy’s main proponents is board chairman and county council leader Mark Bee, who said that while the quality of life for people in Suffolk is generally good – with 77% satisfied with their health – the four main areas would provide focus across health, local authorities and other relevant organisations to ensure public money is spent efficiently.
Life expectancy can vary dramatically depending on where you live in Suffolk. People born in Rougham, near Bury St Edmunds, can expect to live 12 years longer than those in Kirkley, near Lowestoft, where average life expectancy is just under 76.
In Lowestoft’s Harbour ward, 39% of children live in poverty, compared to 5% in Kesgrave East, near Ipswich.
Meanwhile, Suffolk’s overall educational attainment remains below national rates, with a child’s grades apparently depending on where they go to school. In Whitton, Ipswich, 27% of children achieved five A* to C grades at GCSE compared to 72% in Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds.
A “strategic needs assessment” found there are areas of deprivation in all the districts of Suffolk that can be hidden within more affluent communities.
In his introduction to the strategy, Mr Bee said: “The board recognises the huge role that local people, communities and neighbourhoods play in contributing to improved health and wellbeing within Suffolk.
“We hope that everyone can identify with the priorities within this strategy and are inspired to take local action to contribute to the strategy’s aims.” The strategy states “prevention” is key to success over the next 10 years. Due to early detection and improvements in treatment, early death from cancer fell by 34% between 1993 and 2010, despite more people being diagnosed each year.
Prevention will include taking action in the early years of life, improving access to suitable housing, including addressing fuel poverty, and raising awareness that some problems affecting older people are not an inevitable consequence of old age but can be reduced with lifestyle changes and adaptations to the home.
The Health and Wellbeing Board also wants to utilise community networks to identify solutions to local problems, and build on the inspiration of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy to promote healthy active lifestyles.
n The public are invited to submit their views on the strategy, which is due to be updated in 2015. Write to Tessa Lindfield, director of public health, Suffolk County Council, Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich, IP1 2BX.