Health: People need to change their lifestyles

This county is facing an obesity timebomb
This county is facing an obesity timebomb

A ticking time bomb of diseases linked to obesity lays in wait for people unless significant lifestyle changes are made, according to reports about the health profiles of our towns.

The documents, published just a few days ago by Public Health England, show about 20 per cent of our children and 25 per cent of adults are obese.

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One in four adults smoke and there are big variations in life expectancy depending on where people live.

The Health Profiles programme is part of Public Health England, which is an executive agency of the Department of Health.

Public Health England, established on April 1, says its aims are to protect and improve the nation’s health and well-being and to reduce inequalities.

It will support local authorities and the NHS to provide improvements in public health.

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The annual profiles are produced at local authority level because they are intended for use by councillors, directors of public health, council officers and members of local health and well-being boards.

The profiles are the first produced since Public Health England began working directly with local authorities.

Dr Peter Barker, a consultant in public health, said that while Northamptonshire is generally more healthy than a lot of areas, there are still concerns over obesity.

He added: “The problem with obesity is that it drives diabetes, so you may have a situation where figures for diabetes don’t look too bad now, but you know that it is likely to become more of an issue in the future because of the levels of obesity.

“Diabetes itself also drives heart disease, and obesity is linked to some forms of cancer.

“This is definitely an issue.”

The figures in the documents will be used to inform health campaigns and initiatives at a strategic level.

This can include education in schools, campaigns like the anti-smoking initiative Stoptober and potentially even encouraging local authorities to approve fewer licences for takeaways.

The profiles even look at the average number of road deaths, meaning data can be passed on to the police and highways authorities.

Dr Barker said the figures showed that there were also health inequalities across the area.

For example, men in Corby can expect to live for an average of 76.2 years, while in East Northamptonshire they can expect to live for 79.7.

He added: “A health inequalities plan, which would talk about how we propose to address some of these issues, is something we could look into producing.”

One of the key issues raised by the figures is that poor health is often linked to deprivation.

To determine deprivation, the overall population of the country is divided into five sections.

However, in Corby, almost 30 per cent of people live in the most deprived section of the population while in East Northamptonshire the figure is less than one per cent and in Kettering is about 10 per cent.

Tiffany Burch, a public health specialist registrar, said: “Deprivation isn’t only about income, it can be about housing and environment as well.

“Deprivation is also linked to some surprising statistics, such as the number of road deaths in an area.

“It isn’t the only factor affecting health, for example in Wellingborough, which has about average levels of deprivation, there are above average levels of obesity and diabetes.

“Having the figures is useful because it shows us what issues to focus on.

“We can look at good practices adopted elsewhere in the country and bring them to this area or we can go back to Public Health England and see if they have ideas on how to tackle the main issues.”

The Public Health Profiles are aimed at health professionals but can also be viewed online by visiting