New partnership aims to tackle health and wellbeing issues affecting St Albans

PUBLISHED: 14:15 03 April 2018

Childhood obesity has been identified as a concern in St Albans.

Childhood obesity has been identified as a concern in St Albans.

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Alarming new statistics have revealed a grim picture of the state of the district’s health and wellbeing.

Figures reveal that St Albans had the third highest suicide rates in Hertfordshire between 2013 to 2015 - seven in every 100,000 people took their own lives.

Additionally, nearly 60 per cent of adults are overweight and 13.7 per cent of children aged 10 and 11 are obese.

The district also is also aging fast, with a predicted 20 per cent increase in the 65 to 69 age group from 2014 to 2039.

The number of elderly people aged 90 or older is expected to increase 200 per cent over the same time period.

To tackle the increasing pressure on the health services, St Albans district council (SADC) has launched the District Health and Wellbeing Partnership, aims to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of residents using £60,000 of funding.

The new health and wellbeing strategy has been developed by the partnership’s public health working group and covers the period 2018 to 2021.

Stuart Falconer, a founder of The OLLIE Foundation (One Life Lost Is Enough), the local charity which provides training to spot the warning signs of suicide in teenagers, explained that suicide is a vicious cycle: “It’s really difficult, I don’t think it’s any one organisation or area’s problem, it’s a community problem.

“My view is that the more we are exposed to suicide and it forms our frame of reference, then statistically the more vulnerable to suicide it makes us.”

He said no-one knows how suicide will affect the people around them until it happens.

He added: “Because no-one is trained in how to deal with grief then when one of the people in your peer group kills themselves that can raise all these other issues in your mind.”

He encouraged everyone to talk openly about suicide and take the training courses OLLIE offer: “If you don’t talk about it, nothing changes, If you choose to ignore it to protect someone then you doing everyone a disservice.”

Chair of the new partnership, Cllr Robert Donald, said: “We know with all the demands on the health service currently, the more we can do to keep residents healthy and out of hospital or GP surgeries, the better it will be for their general health and wellbeing.

“This will also relieve pressure on NHS services locally. To help local residents remain healthy therefore whatever their age or disability, the St Albans public health working group has been working with the Health and Wellbeing Partnership to achieve this in our district. This strategy is a first for the district.”

He said they have agreed to help fund eight 12-week Shape Up men’s weight management courses run by Watford Football Club’s Community Sport and Education Trust and will continue to support the Wellbeing clinic on a Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Advice.

A spokesperson for West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT), the NHS body which runs healthcare services in St Albans said: “Obesity has an impact on the health service in a number of ways, not least by increasing costs on bariatric items such as beds, chairs and surgical equipment. But that isn’t really the issue. Obesity can lead to type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some cancers and stroke. By exercising, drinking in moderation and enjoying a nutritious and balanced diet, you can sign up to a longer life with fewer health complications instead.”

A spokesperson for Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group, the NHS body which funds healthcare in St Albans, said: “The NHS and Public Health in Hertfordshire fund Weight Watchers and Slimming World services, which GPs can refer patients to at no cost to the patient.

“We would expect patients to lose weight over a maximum nine-month period. In our experience, most patients go on to achieve the recommended weight loss.

“If at any time the potential harm of waiting for surgery outweighs the benefits of losing weight, the patient will go ahead and have the required surgery.”

To see the strategy visit tinyurl.com/ydcprdvu

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