READING residents are being encouraged to take a healthier lifestyle approach, with help available for those who are seriously struggling to make better choices.
Stats for Reading suggest the borough continues to face serious problems with a growing trend of unhealthy lifestyle choices amongst the town’s population, including obesity amongst adults and children, as well as high levels of physical inactivity, poor eating choices, smoking levels and alcohol consumption.
A report going before Reading’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Friday 19th January, sets out the health challenges faced both nationally and locally, and outlines progress to date on improving healthy lifestyles in Reading.
It is estimated over 63 per cent of adults in Reading carry excess weight, with many people not meeting the recommended weekly exercise or portions of fresh fruit and vegetables. Amongst Reading’s children, 18.5 per cent are obese by the time they enter Year 6.
At least 30,000 Reading residents are drinking to hazardous levels and 4,500 are drinking to harmful levels. Although smoking levels in Reading reduced from 20.6% in 2012 to 15.8% in 2016, it remains the second highest smoking level in Berkshire.
The knock on effect of unhealthy choice puts an unsustainable burden on health services through high rates of preventable disease and mortality.
The picture is particularly bleak in areas of high deprivation – with widening health inequalities and the gap in life expectancy for the most affluent areas of Reading widening to 10 years for men and 5 years for women.
Encouraging healthier lifestyles is a top priority for the Council and it continues to invest in weight management services, stop smoking support services and a variety of other services including awareness raising campaigns, education programmes and physical activity opportunities for children and adults.
Progress to date includes:
· The Council currently commissions the local stop smoking service, Smokefreelife Berkshire. In 2016/17 the provider successfully supported to a 4 week quit and 499 to 12 weeks. Of these people, 73 had diabetes, 50 were pre-operative, 21 were under 18 and 19 were pregnant women.
· Eat4Health, the Council commissioned accessible weight management and healthy lifestyle programme, saw 93% of people completing a course lost weight, with 72% of clients either maintaining or continuing to lose weight 6 months after finishing the course. The provider is now trialling a course for older teenagers.
· Let’s Get Going, a 12-week tier 2 healthy weight and lifestyle programme for children aged 7-12 and their families. The course covers healthy eating, portion sizes, food tasting, teeth and hand hygiene, growing skills, exercise and energy balance. In the first half of 2017, 79% of children improved their fitness test results, 75% reduced their consumption of sugary drinks and snacks and 73% reduced their sedentary screen time to less than 2 hours / day outside of school.
· Council in the process of consulting on a Drug and Alcohol Strategy and Action Plan.
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health, said:
“Locally we recognise the need to strengthen our efforts to ensure that people who live and work in Reading can choose a healthy, active lifestyle and have the support that they need to maintain those healthy choices throughout their lives.
“We support and encourage adults, children and young people to be more active through a number of great initiatives. We also commission a very successful quit smoking service and we will shortly begin a consultation on our drug and alcohol strategy.
“The Council firmly believes focussing our efforts and working with partners in these areas now saves public health services – including the NHS – money in the long run.
“However, we also need to balance this against the challenge of continuing reductions to the public health budget as a result of government cuts which makes it difficult for councils across the country to help people to improve their health. Since 2015/16 we have seen the public health budget reduce by 9.8% and further cuts are expected. We are being forced to make some extremely tough decisions about where limited resources will have the most impact.”
The full report can be viewed here: www.reading.gov.uk/media/8207/item06/pdf/item06_1.pdf