'Horrendous decline' in county's health - growing obesity, suicide and alcohol problems
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Public health in Essex is suffering a “horrendous decline” with high rates of obesity, suicide and alcohol misuse, a doctor has said.
Dr Mike Gogarty has set out that physical activity, weight management, alcohol and loneliness as key aspects that need addressing - but also included concerns around substance abuse, sexual health and smoking.
Dr Gogarty said he was not prepared to accept worsening health.
He told the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board: “Health inequalities are increasing. Things are getting worse in the population we serve.
“I am presiding over a horrendous decline in the health and well-being of certain parts of Essex. It is not something I am proud of and not something I am prepared to accept.
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“We need to look at those wider determinates better – economic growth and jobs, education, lifelong learning, housing and accommodation and crime and community safety.
“We need to look at factors like increasing obesity in the whole population – two third of adults are overweight or obese.
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“Mental health is horrendous.
“We have very high rates of suicide across Essex – the rates are higher than nationally.
“We have some places in Essex which are in the top 15 nationally and were until very recently in the top five.
“We have a very unwell, deconditioned population post Covid with high levels of alcohol misuse and lots of avoidable heart disease and diabetes.
“We have still have unacceptable but declining levels of smoking and poor sexual health behaviour.”
He has been charged with developing strategic plans to identify the ambitions and outcomes to which Essex County Council is committed to achieving by 2025 as part of its Public Health and Adult Social Care Priorities.
In Essex, there were 30,500 people admitted to hospital in 2018/19 – up 39% in six years from 22,070 in 2012/2013.
Further work will be concentrated on tackling suicide – especially given Tendring and Colchester had some of the highest rates in England.
Office for National Statistics data has shown Essex had a higher rate of suicides than the national average in 2019.
It also shows Tendring to have the second highest rate in England and Colchester the third.
Dr Gogarty said the strategy to improve the county’s health will be based on community-led tactics.
He said: “It is broadly going to be around communities taking responsibility, taking control and allowing them to do it, building resilience, building very strong relationships, sharing vision, using an evidence based approach and really getting the most senior people signed up to this agenda."