Pledge to make Suffolk healthiest county

LEADING figures from across Suffolk were at the launch of a ground breaking 20-year plan to make the county the healthiest in the country by 2028.

Craig Robinson

LEADING figures from across Suffolk were at the launch of a ground breaking 20-year plan to make the county the healthiest in the country by 2028.

Individuals from the public and private sector gathered at Trinity Park in Ipswich yesterday to hear more about the pioneering initiative.

Healthy Ambitions Suffolk - thought to be the first scheme of its kind in the country - aims to get more people active in a bid to tackle obesity, reduce cancer and heart disease deaths and put an end to inequalities that can mean a difference of as much as 12 years life expectancy in different parts of the county.

Yesterday's launch - which included a performance by youngsters from Dance East and music from Farlingaye High School - was attended by businesses, voluntary groups, borough, district and county councillors and members of the primary care trust (PCT).

Speaking at yesterday's launch Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health for the PCT and Suffolk County Council, said: “On the 5th of November we traditionally celebrate a rather revolutionary figure in Guy Fawkes and today I want to start a revolution in Suffolk - a revolution that's going to have a lasting effect on the fabric of our community.”

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Mr Bradley said at the core of the campaign is an emphasis on measures that have a large impact, such as promoting walking and cycling and introducing health initiatives in workplaces, homes and schools.

To help encourage this there will be a Healthy Ambitions Suffolk award scheme for organisations that demonstrate a commitment to the initiative.

A number of people were asked to show their support by signing a “pledges” wall including Ipswich Borough Council chief executive James Hehir; Rachel Jackson from the Port of Felixstowe; hotelier, food broadcaster and writer, Ruth Watson; Jackie Martin from Suffolk Family Carers and Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks.

Mr Sheepshanks said: “I think its absolutely gobsmacking that in this county we have got people who live a difference of 12.3 years longer than others depending on where they live and where they were brought up. I am sure every one of us is Suffolk and proud but we are not proud of that.

“Some 80% of men over 46 are over weight or obese, there are 700,000 people in this wonderful county - a sixth of these have some kind of mental illness or disorder. Meanwhile 18% of our children under 11 are obese - why have we allowed that?”

He urged everyone to sign up to the Healthy Ambitions programme - which is run by the Suffolk Strategic Partnership - and even called for a football style AGM so that people could be held to account to ensure they stuck to their promises.

“We need to put our hands up and do our bit to really make it happen,” he said. “Of course it's long term but that doesn't mean we have time on our side - we are talking about changing attitudes, it takes generations that's why we need 20 years.”

For more information about the campaign visit www.suffolk.nhs.uk .

A dedicated website - www.healthyambitionssuffolk.nhs.uk - will be up and running from January 1.

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