Sheffield’s health ‘best-ever’ - but challenges remain

Sheffield's Director of Public Health, Dr Jeremy Wight
Sheffield's Director of Public Health, Dr Jeremy Wight
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Public health in Sheffield is ‘better than it has ever been’ - but inequalities between rich and poor areas remain a concern.

The conclusions were revealed in an annual report by the city’s director of public health, Dr Jeremy Wight.

Sheffield park runners.

Sheffield park runners.

The report, to be presented to Sheffield Council this week, will help officials decide where to spend £30 million on community health services over the coming 12 months.

Dr Wight’s conclusions are:

The health of the people of Sheffield is better than it has ever been.

Death rates from all the major diseases continue to fall steadily.

Life expectancy for men and women has improved again.

Latest analysis of the inequality of life expectancy across the city shows a narrowing of the gap for women.

But Dr Wight added: “Health inequalities remain a real concern, however, particularly when issues such as how long people can expect to live free of disability or ill health which can limit daily life are taken into account.

“There are also a number of public health outcomes where further improvement can and should be made, especially in relation to vulnerable and at risk groups of people.”

Coun Mary Lea, Sheffield Council cabinet member for adult social services, said: “The report is brilliant news in terms of showing how the health of people in Sheffield is improving.

“But there are still ways in which we can make life better. If people are living longer, the next thing to look at is whether they are able to live healthy, active, fulfilling lives.

“Smoking-related illnesses remain an issue although we know great swathes of people have cut out the habit.”

Coun Lea added the council, which has taken over responsibility for the £30 million annual community health budget from the NHS, would prioritise ‘encouraging physical activity’.

“There will be a variety of initiatives - it is not just about getting people to the gym because they are not suitable for everyone,” Coun Lea said.

BACKGROUND

Life expectancy in Sheffield has ‘improved year on year’ in the last five years, the 2013 public health report reveals.

Figures for how long people are expected to live from birth has risen by almost a year for both men and women during the period, to 78.4 years for men and 82.1 years for women.

However, life expectancy remains below the national average of 78.9 years for men and 82.9 years for women.

But Sheffield is outperforming all other major cities outside London, including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham.

The gap between rich and poor areas of Sheffield remains a concern, however, with the disparity ‘relatively static’ at 8.7 years for men, although the gap of 7.4 years for women has ‘narrowed in recent years.

In rich parts of Sheffield, both men and women live into their 80s, while the poor wards have lower life expectancy than the city average, in the mid 70s.

Several health challenges are highlighted.

The proportion of children in poverty in Sheffield is 24 per cent compared with 20.6 per cent national average.

And only 41.3 per cent of people needing social care services felt they had enough social contact compared with 45.8 per cent nationally.

“Social isolation has major health implications. It is linked in particular with loss of mobility, deprivation and sensory impairment,” said Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield Director of Public Health.

Childhood obesity ‘must remain a priority’ although a steady increase in cases has ceased, Dr Wight has revealed.

Around one third of 10 to 11 year-olds are classed as overweight or obese.

Better news revealed in the public health report is that teenage pregnancies have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade, from 52.8 girls aged 15 to 17 per 1,000 in 2001 to 35.2 in 2011 - and the decline is predicted to continue.

A fall in smoking is believed to have helped cause a steep fall in premature cardiovascular illness deaths among under 75s in Sheffield from 120 in 2001 to 70 in 2011.

But smoking remains above the national average, with 21.6 per cent of Sheffield’s population lighting up, compared with 20 per cent nationally.

Dr Wight said liver disease is the ‘only major cause of premature death that is increasing’, accounting for 70 early deaths each year.

“Over 90 per cent of these deaths are preventable,” Dr Wight said.

He concluded: “Public health in Sheffield is generally good and is improving - nevertheless there are a number of areas where action will be needed to see further improvements.”