• Durham OnAir

Supporting residents to live longer, healthier lives


Work being undertaken to support County Durham residents in living longer, healthier lives

and to tackle widening inequalities caused by the pandemic will be presented to

councillors next week.


Durham County Council’s Cabinet is set to receive this year’s annual reports of the

Director of Public Health and its Health and Wellbeing Board 2021-22 when it meets next

week.


Both reports consider the impact of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of residents

in County Durham, ongoing work to support communities as people learn to live safely with

the virus and continued efforts to make smoking history in the county.


Cllr Chris Hood, Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “We are determined

to do everything to we can to support people in living longer, healthier lives. To do this, it is

vital that we work together with our communities and partners to help improve health,

reduce inequalities and make sure no-one is left behind.


“Although the pandemic has increased some health inequalities, we can build on the

strong response of our partnership work during these challenging times to confidently

address these and other issues we may face in the future. Working together to continue to

tackle inequalities and offer people more opportunities which will help to improve their

health and wellbeing will help to create better outcomes for all.”


During the pandemic the council has supplied more than 1.5 million LFD tests through the

community testing programme, dealt with over 4,700 reports of Covid in schools, further

education and early years settings, and helped to deliver more than one million doses of

the Covid vaccine.


Through the work of its County Durham Together community hub, more than 10,000 of the

county’s most clinically and socially vulnerable people were also offered support with food

deliveries, welfare advice and wider support services. More than 400 Covid-19 heroes

were also nominated for an award, recognising their contributions to communities during

the pandemic.


While the health and wellbeing of residents has improved over recent years, it remains

worse than the England average, with higher levels of deprivation and lower life

expectancy.


Figures show that there are more people living with long-term mental health problems in

County Durham than the England average and more children living in low-income families.

However, figures also show the number of people attending bowel cancer screening and

getting their flu vaccination is significantly better than the England average.


Over the last year, the County Durham Public Health Strategic Plan has been reviewed

and reshaped to focus on three themed areas of work. These include having and

promoting a healthier population; improving access to good quality health services while

reducing health inequalities; and protecting the health of communities against

communicable disease, domestic abuse, tobacco, drugs and alcohol.


This year’s report of the Director of Public Health includes an in-depth focus on the

progress to significantly reduce smoking in County Durham. Although adult smoking has

almost halved across the county since 2005, it remains the single largest cause of

preventable deaths and one of the largest causes of health inequalities.


Currently, 14.3 per cent of the population in County Durham smoke and the council wants

to achieve its ambition of having only five per cent of its population smoking by 2030. It

also wants to reduce the number of mothers smoking at the time of delivery of their babies

to zero per cent by 2025, which would reduce the number of mothers who smoke by 700.

The plan to reduce smoking to five per cent by 2030 is focussed around seven key areas

of work. This includes motivating and supporting smokers to stop and stay stopped;

reducing the demand and supply of illegal tobacco products, increasing prices and

addressing the supply of tobacco to children; as well as enforcement around illicit tobacco.

Meanwhile, the vision of the Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB), which works with key

partners to improve health and wellbeing, also recognises the importance of mental health

and wellbeing, physical activity and social factors such as housing, education and

employment. Its priorities are starting well, living well and ageing well, as part of its

commitment to shaping a healthy place for all residents.


To support these aims, the council commissioned a new collaborative approach to

supporting people with mental ill-health in April last year. The new County Durham Mental

Wellbeing Alliance brings together a range of mental health providers, enabling them to

work together to shape the delivery of support based on local needs.


The HWB has supported the launch of the County Durham Health and Wellbeing

Framework for schools and education settings, to address physical and emotional

wellbeing and improve outcomes for children, young people, staff and settings.


Through its Holiday Activities with Healthy Food project, the council also engaged with

more than 32,000 children and young people, including 2,355 with additional needs.

The Health and Wellbeing Board also supports the aim of reducing levels of smoking. As

well as continued work to raise awareness of the dangers of smoking, the board’s chair

has written to local MPs to advocate a ‘polluter tax’ for tobacco manufacturing firms.

The board also endorsed a five-year programme which outlines the council’s plans to

deliver 500 affordable homes, including bungalows across the county, with a large

proportion dedicated for older people.


Cabinet will meet at 9.30am on Wednesday 12 October and is recommended to note that

work that has taken place across the year.