Vital issues

Recent improvements to health have not benefited everyone in the North East. There is a case for doing more in those towns and neighbourhoods with higher rates of ill-health and early deaths.

Improving healthy behaviour is a priority given that problems such as poor diet, inactivity, smoking and unsafe drinking are common in the region. Community groups are well placed to provide a bridge into communities for those wishing to encourage healthier choices.

Mental health is an issue across the North East, with rates of self-harm and suicide a particular cause for concern. Could more be done to help people at an early stage through charitable funding for community groups?

Vital statistics

Percentage of North East adults taking less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise a week

34%

Deaths from circulatory disease are falling slowest in Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle

Sunderland and South Tyneside have very low take-up of the free “mid-life MOT” NHS health check

Background

The North East does poorly on many health measures, particularly in its most disadvantaged areas. In some places, this means a lower life expectancy at birth of over a decade. But it is not only in poorer areas that health is an issue. Increasing people’s willingness to adopt healthier lifestyles is a challenge for us all. The NHS has a role to play, but community groups can add value. They have a good track record of encouraging people to become more active, eat healthily and tackle problems like drinking, smoking and substance abuse. Often it is these groups who are best placed to work with parents and children to ensure that the next generation take more care of themselves than the last.

But it is not only physical health that is the issue. Although the region’s residents seem fairly positive when asked about their well-being, the region has high rates of mental ill-health. In some areas there are worrying trends in self-harm and suicide. Our research suggests that the formal engagement of the voluntary sector in delivering mental health services has had mixed results, but it retains a key role in the provision of informal support to individuals.


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