Health chiefs in Suffolk are planning a “radical change” in the approach to problems like smoking and obesity, and drinking with alcohol-related deaths the highest for 20 years.

Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board gathering of council and health service representatives agreed for work to begin on a new public health strategy around problem areas like smoking, obesity, diet and lack of exercise.

A report prepared for the board said: “Although there has been some change over the last five years, for issues such as obesity, inactivity and over consumption of alcohol little is improving and smoking in some parts of the county is remaining stubbornly high.”

It added: “There is also evidence that the current pandemic is having a negative impact upon many health behaviours such that in April this year death rates for alcohol were reported as being the highest for 20 years.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk director of public health Stuart KeebleSuffolk director of public health Stuart Keeble (Image: Suffolk County Council)

Data indicated that just 37% of adults were of a healthy weight, and 25% of the adult population did not maintain safe limits of alcohol.

The new strategy is set to consider the background to how people live their lives to tackle the root causes of smoking take-up, alcohol use or poor diet, and means issues such as deprivation and income could be studied.

Lynda Bradford, head of health improvement at Public Health Suffolk, said: “We know that the majority of people display at least one healthy behaviour, but there are significant number of people who are unable to display healthy behaviours.

“For instance, 30% of adults are not active at all, and that is quite problematic for them and their families.”

“What I am proposing is we take a system approach to healthy behaviours going forward, using the evidence to inform what we think is the starting point, but working right from the beginning with individuals with lived experience and key communities which have the worst quality of life.”

Public Health Suffolk director Stuart Keeble added: “We are not going into this with any preconceived ideas of what we are going to commission or what we are going to do.

“It’s making sure that we consider it in the round by having a conversation with our residents about what is important to them, but also about what enables those behaviours and to get that balance right.”