County’s public health in “horrendous decline”

Public health in Essex is in “horrendous decline” with high rates of obesity, suicide and alcohol misuse, a doctor has said.

Dr Mike Gogarty has set out that physical activity, weight management, alcohol and loneliness as key aspects that need addressing but also included concerns around substance abuse, sexual health and smoking.

He has been charged with developing strategic plans, identifying the ambitions and outcomes to which Essex County Council is committed for achievement by 2025 as part of its Public Health and Adult Social Care Priorities.

Dr Gogarty added he was not prepared to accept worsening health.

He told the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board on September 16: “Health inequalities are increasing. Things are getting worse in the population we serve.

“I am presiding over a horrendous decline in the health and well-being of certain parts of Essex. It is not something I am proud of and not something I am prepared to accept.

“We need to look at those wider determinates better – economic growth and jobs, education, lifelong learning, housing and accommodation and crime and community safety.

“We need to look at factors like increasing obesity in the whole population – two third of adults are overweight or obese.

“Mental health is horrendous.

“We have very high rates of suicide across Essex – the rates are higher than nationally.

“We have some places in Essex which are in the top 15 nationally and were until very recently in the top five.

“We have a very unwell, deconditioned population post Covid with high levels of alcohol misuse and lots of avoidable heart disease and diabetes.

“We have still have unacceptable but declining levels of smoking and poor sexual health behaviour.”

Essex County Council says by 2024 it wants to have increased the proportion of dependent drinkers accessing effective treatment from ten per cent to 20 per cent, which is above the Government’s recommendation of 15 per cent.

The authority also wants to have “continued to reduce the rate of increase in alcohol-related hospital admission to five per cent”.

What does the data say?

In Essex, there were 30,500 people admitted to hospital in 2018/19 – up 39 per cent in six years from 22,070 in 2012/2013.

Further work will be concentrated on tackling suicide.

Office for National Statistics data has shown Essex had a higher rate of suicides than the national average in 2019.

Dr Gogarty added the strategy to improve the county’s health will be based on community-led tactics.

He said: “It is broadly going to be around communities taking responsibility, taking control and allowing them to do it, building resilience, building very strong relationships, sharing vision, using an evidence based approach and really getting the most senior people signed up to this agenda.

He added: “One of the tricks here is to learn what has worked elsewhere and then how we translate that operationally and make that happen locally.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter