Suffolk's 'five-a-day failure'

SEVEN in 10 adults in Suffolk do not eat their recommended five fruit and vegetables a day, it has been revealed.

Danielle Nuttall

SEVEN in 10 adults in Suffolk do not eat their recommended five fruit and vegetables a day, it has been revealed.

The shock figures emerged yesterday as health bosses in the county unveiled their five-step blueprint to improve Suffolk's health over the next five years.

The plan, drawn up by the primary care trust (PCT), warns of an increasing number of health problems in Suffolk arising out of “unhealthy lifestyle choices”.

One in four adults in the county smoke, seven in 10 do not eat five fruit and vegetables a day, one in six binge drink and one in four is obese, it reports.

There is also a wide variation in life expectancy rates among men in the most and least healthy areas of the county, while more women living in deprived parts of Suffolk die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses.

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In its Commissioning for Health - Caring for Healthcare plan, Suffolk PCT sets out five goals it aims to achieve before 2013, including improving the experience of healthcare services for people in Suffolk and reducing health inequalities across the county.

Next year the PCT aims to ensure 50% of GP practices offer extended hours in the evening or at weekends and to develop self-care and a patient education programme in diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure.

It also intends to tackle childhood obesity and increase access to psychological support therapies.

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk PCT, said: “Overall, we want a health service that helps people in Suffolk to stay healthy, provides access to high quality healthcare when they need it and aims continually for excellence and improvement in all areas. To sum up: the right care in the right place at the right time.

“We are in a strong position, helped by the fact we have turned around our financial situation, and Suffolk health services continue to perform well in reducing waiting times for treatment and improving care.

“There are other challenges to tackle. For example, we are generally a healthy community but we need to reduce the inequalities in health in some communities.”

Suffolk is relatively healthy compared to the national average, according to the health plan.

Life expectancy for both men and women in the county is higher than for England, currently 78.4 years for men (England 76.6) and 82.1 years for women (England 81.1).

Deaths due to smoking, cancer, heart disease and stroke are all lower than the national average and Suffolk as a county has lower levels of deprivation, with only one in 11 residents being dependent on benefits.

Teenage pregnancy rates in the county are also lower than the national average, with figures for 2002-04 showing there were 33.4 conceptions among females aged under 18 per 1,000 females compared to the national rate of 42.1.

But the plan says there is a rising demand for health and social care services due to a growing elderly population, with more support services needed for people with dementia.

Mrs Taylor-Brown said there would be more focus on improving health and preventing ill-health over the next five years.

“People told us they wanted more help to stay well and the confidence to know services are there when they need them,” she said. “Our plans will see improved access to care, development of more locally-based services, particularly in community settings, alongside a positive future for our acute hospitals at Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds and our mental health care services.”

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