Improving Sheffield’s health needs a shot in the arm, new report says

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Sheffield’s health is on the up - but a big ‘step change’ is needed to realise the long-held ambition of becoming one of the country’s healthiest cities, a report has found.

Life expectancy for both men and women is increasing year-on-year, early deaths from heart and lung diseases are falling and progress is being made on making sure people take more exercise.

But the rate of deaths from cancer which could have been prevented is higher than the national average, too many people are smoking and drinking too much and nearly 60 per cent of the city’s adult population is overweight or obese, according to this year’s Director of Public Health Report for Sheffield.

In the report, which will be presented to councillors next week, interim public health director Stephen Horsley says Sheffield needs to be ‘much more ambitious’ by considering how the city compares with England as a whole.

“Our aim should be to improve health and wellbeing to be among the best in the country,” he writes.

The theme of this year’s report is Transforming Public Health, and it explores how the ‘full breadth and reach’ of the council can be used to ‘make lasting improvements’ locally.

Mr Horsley makes three main recommendations - that a basic measure of wellbeing in Sheffield should be created and then used to track change and variation in health over time in different communities, and that the council should devise a way of helping residents cut the cost of their fuel bills, such as setting up a local energy company.

More people should engage with the city’s Move More physical activity campaign, while a larger number of children should be given the opportunity to take regular exercise, he adds.

Councillors will be told that Sheffield’s position relative to the rest of the country has ‘remained virtually unchanged’ since 2006.

Men are currently expected to live until the age of 78, and women for 82 years. Although improvements are being made, this is still short of the national average - 79 for men, 83 for women.

Each year, more than 40 per cent of all premature deaths in the city are caused by cancer. Around 58 per cent of these are considered preventable - equal to around 380 deaths ever year.

Mr Horsley says a large number of deaths before 75 could be prevented by changes in lifestyle, taking up the offer of breast, bowel and cervical screening, and earlier detection and treatment.

Early deaths from heart disease are also ‘falling year on year, and at a faster pace than nationally’, because of widespread lifestyle changes, identifying people at risk, and more effective treatment. Currently cardiovascular disease accounts for a quarter of premature deaths in the city.

Premature deaths from lung disease are also falling, but around 70 deaths in people under the age of 75 could be prevented if smoking was reduced to the lowest level in the country.

“Although public health outcomes in Sheffield are improving on the whole, it is clear there are a number of areas where a step change in improvement will be required if we are to achieve a long-held ambition of being one of the healthiest cities in the country and reducing the health inequalities that continue to blight our city.”