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Director for Public Health Calls for Urgent Action and Debate to Tackle Poor Health

October 23, 2007 4:25 PM

Two major reports unveiled today highlight the challenges of tackling our unenviable health status.
The Director of Public Health’s Report - “A Call To Debate, A Call To Action”, highlights the key public health challenges facing Greater Glasgow and Clyde. And a groundbreaking new joint Alcohol policy between Scotland’s three largest public sector organisations which will see NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police join forces to tackle the blight of alcohol abuse in Glasgow.
In her first major report on the state of public health across Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Dr Linda de Caestecker, calls for a major debate and increased action to address obesity and alcohol misuse. She also highlights the need to find new ways to tackle the much poorer health of people living in the most deprived areas. 
The hard-hitting messages in her report highlights the need for the NHS, councils, Governments and private companies to make it easier for people to make healthy choices by providing them with the right environment in which to lead healthy lives.
Dr de Caestecker said: “We can’t just place all the responsibility on individuals as we know telling people to eat well, drink less and exercise more simply doesn’t work. We need to make it easier for people to make these changes in their everyday lives.
“We need to make sure that we don’t focus on health behaviours in isolation but also address some of the wider issues which affect health and inequalities. Where we live, how much we earn and the range of amenities in our local area all impact on our health and wellbeing.”
Factors like gender, race, disabilities and social class also contribute to our overall health and can affect many aspects of our life from how long we live to the type of diseases we are likely to contract. One of the most important things, however, we can do to improve an individual’s health and prospects is to help them get a job that pays a decent wage and raises self-esteem and motivation. This will reduce poverty, tackle inequalities and help bridge the widening gap between the rich and poor. Dr de Caestecker also called for more focus on supporting parents to help young children steer clear of risk and harm and live fulfilled and happy lives.
She said: “I want to ignite public debate and encourage corporate action from both the private and public sectors, to play a more proactive role in influencing positive health changes. I can offer two small but important examples.
“One would be ending the sale unhealthy food in public buildings, which means getting the chips, sweets and fizzy drinks out of NHS and council facilities, including hospitals and leisure centres.
“Secondly, on smoking, I think we need to go even further than we have already. The smoking ban proved that national legislation was needed to bring about the scale of change required to make a real difference to people’s health. One year on we are already starting to see the benefits and, while the recent increase in age for buying cigarettes is welcome, I would also like to see cigarettes removed from eye level displays in our shops.”
The debate will be kick started with a major seminar in Glasgow followed by a series of events in local authority areas across Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Dr de Caestecker is also keen for the public to have their say, she said: “These issues affect all of us and it’s therefore vital that the general public also have an opportunity to have their say. I want to hear from local communities, patients, carers, staff, politicians and others with an influence on health about what they think needs to done to improve the health of people across Greater Glasgow and Clyde. That’s why I’ve set up our first online web forum to allow people to feedback their comments and suggestions. I want to do everything possible to encourage widespread discussion and debate on the key health issues that matter to us all and I would urge everyone to get involved.”
One of the key challenges highlighted in the report is the sheer scale of the problems related to alcohol misuse and its devastating impact on our health and communities. It shows the need for concerted action to reduce alcohol consumption and outlines a number of proposed actions including restricting the availability of alcohol by reducing the number of places where alcohol is sold and encouraging GPs to ask patients about their drinking habits.
Her stark calls for action come on the same day as the three largest public sector organisations joined forces to launch announce an ambitious action plan which will put the fight against alcohol-related harm at the very top of their agendas. Glasgow City Council, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Strathclyde Police have signed up to a wide range of joint actions to tackle alcohol misuse and over consumption across Glasgow: These include actions to:
  • Reduce alcohol related crime, violence and disorder
  • Reduce harm to children affected by alcohol problems in the family
  • Reduce alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol consumed in general with specific measures to tackle underage binge drinking
  • Promote responsible alcohol consumption amongst their combined workforce of more than 100,000 employees
Key actions of the policy include a roll out of alcohol screening in all hospitals and health centres to identify alcohol problems early on and get people the help and support they need as soon as possible. Particular priority will also be given to changing the behaviour of young people to achieve a long-term culture shift to break the cycle of excess alcohol
consumption. Detailed actions will also be developed to further ensure enforcement of the law against underage drink sales. Amongst a range of measures designed to reduce alcohol related crime will be the establishment of a new ‘Change’ programme for perpetrators of domestic violence and the roll out and development of the Arrest and Referral Scheme which provides assessment and referral for offenders, at the point of arrest, into relevant specialist addiction services.
Deputy Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Jim Coleman, said: “We all know that Glasgow has a major alcohol problem - you only have to visit the city centre on a Saturday night to see at first hand the number of young people who are drinking to excess.
“The increase in harmful drinking is now at a level where the issues caused by alcohol problems are amongst the most serious public health problems facing the city. Tackling this worrying trend therefore requires a joined up and consistent approach across all the key agencies – which exactly what this new joint policy will deliver. We must act now to address our problems with alcohol to improve the health of our people and protect Glasgow's image and reputation in the long term."
Sir Willie Rae, Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, said: “Alcohol abuse does not only cause ill health and premature death but is also a major contributor to violence, abuse of women and children and fear and dysfunction in our communities. This joint alcohol policy will see us strengthen our collective efforts and take fresh steps to tackle the scourge of alcohol abuse which affects the very fabric of our community.”
ENDS
 
 
Notes to Editors
For further information and copies of the reports visit the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s website at (www.nhsggc.org.uk). To take part in our biggest ever debate on public health issues please visit our online forum (www.nhsggc.org.uk/dphreport).
Fact File
Life Expectancy
The gap between the better off and those on lower incomes is continuing to widen...with real consequences on health. In Greater Glasgow and Clyde socio-economic status makes the major contribution to some people being healthier, and therefore living longer, than others.
The difference in average life expectancy of men in East Dunbartonshire and East Glasgow differs by nine years. East Dunbartonshire men live an average of 77 years while men in East Glasgow live to an average of 68.
 
Smoking
Across Greater Glasgow and Clyde the two residential areas with the lowest percentages of smokers are East Dunbartonshire (18.6%) and East Renfrewshire (19.2%). The two highest areas are North and East Glasgow with 37.5 % of people in both area being smokers.
 
Obesity
The latest UK study on obesity predicts that, if current trends continue, by 2050 60% of men, 50% of women, and 26% of children and young people will be obese. Cases of type 2 diabetes will rise by 70%. Cases of stroke will rise by 30% and cases of coronary heart disease will rise by 20%. In 2003, more than 60% of adults in Greater Glasgow and Clyde were overweight and more than 20% were obese.
 
Alcohol
·                    Across Greater Glasgow and Clyde cases of liver cirrhosis have almost doubled over the past 10 years. In1995 there were 150 deaths attributed to the disease by 2005 that figure was 291.
·                    In the City of Glasgow in 2005/6 there were 6136 hospital admissions for alcohol related issues.
·                    In the City of Glasgow of those young people who reported drinking around a third of 13 year-olds and almost half of 15 year-olds said they had binged an alcohol in the previous week
·                    It is estimated that the cost of violent crime in Glasgow City, of which many are alcohol related, is £262.1 million.
·                    In Glasgow there are at least 9,940 children who have a father with problem alcohol use and 3,640 have a mother with alcohol problems.
For further information contact the Press Office on 0141 201 4429.

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