Dr Lesley Wilkie, Director of Public Health and Planning, tells us how we can all work together to produce a happier and healthier Grampian.
In your opinion how healthy is the population of Grampian?
We're lucky in Grampian, it's a great place to live and when you look at health in the rest of Scotland, we compare quite well. But, as a nation, we don't compare well to the rest of Europe. We know people who live in less fortunate circumstances are definitely not as healthy. However, the majority, who are living in better circumstances, still may have health issues caused by lifestyle factors, like alcohol and obesity.
What we want to achieve is not just people living longer, but living longer in good health.
Will our future health needs be different to what they are now?
Yes, they will be. As a population, we are living longer, which means more people may develop long term conditions. These are conditions which are more common as we get older, like heart disease, respiratory disease, dementia or arthritis.
Data shows us that lifestyle factors, for example alcohol, obesity and smoking, are causing early deaths, particularly in our younger, more disadvantaged population. If we don't deal with these issues, this will become a greater problem in the future, requiring more health resources, and resulting in a greater burden to families and communities.
What are the main health issues affecting people in Grampian?
Cancers, heart disease and alcoholic liver disease are the main reasons people in Grampian die earlier than they should.
The way people eat unhealthily, drink alcohol, smoke and use drugs contributes to the reasons why people become unwell and die early.
More people are living with health conditions which will remain with them for the rest of their lives conditions like diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
More people are overweight and obese, or living with mental health problems like depression.
Having the opportunity to make healthy lifestyle choices, to get the services that you need, in the way that you need them, can be affected by a wide range of issues such as age, where you live, or whether you have a disability (learning or physical).
What will NHS Grampian do to make things better?
We can help you to help yourself by providing easy access to the information, support and skills that will help you do just that. By being the expert on your own health, and being in charge of managing your health condition, you can feel healthier, reduce the time you spend in hospital and reduce the chance of any complications occurring. This will help you to be as healthy as you can be.
We will ensure that people who are overweight and obese have access to the most appropriate advice and support to achieve a healthy weight. We will work with you and others, to help you to understand what a healthy weight is and how this can be achieved and maintained.
We will promote health through identifying things that protect against ill-health, both physical and mental. Where illness does exist, we will make sure that this can be identified and the right treatment provided.
We will continue to work with our partners to protect the public against infectious diseases and hazards in the environment, by preventing the spread of infections such as E coli and HIV.
We will encourage the uptake of immunisation and screening programmes and take action with other agencies to make the environment as safe and healthy as possible.
We will make every effort to understand what the greatest needs are and make sure that information, support and services are directed to respond to your needs.
We will also make sure that every contact with an NHS facility and member of staff provides you with the opportunity to improve your health, so that when you need it, you can easily receive the right care, at the right time in the right place.
We will continue to provide health promoting services such as smoking cessation, breastfeeding support and toothbrushing for children to help you and your families develop healthy behaviours and make healthy choices.
We will provide free, confidential information on health conditions, ways to improve your health and local support groups through the NHS Grampian walk-in healthpoints across Grampian or through the freephone healthline 0500 202030.
What else can be done?
We will continue to work with our partners - our communities, the councils, police, fire and rescue service, and voluntary organisations - because we know that by working together we can make a bigger difference to the health of people in Grampian.
What can help you stay healthy?
- Stop smoking and limit your and your children's exposure to other people's smoke.
- Find opportunities to be active in your daily life.
- Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat in your diet and think about the size of your meals.
- If you drink alcohol, drink sensibly. Know what is a safe level of drinking and do not drink alcohol if you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant.
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- If you choose to take drugs, never share equipment, and consider getting tested for hepatitis.
- Use a condom to prevent the risk of infections and unintended pregnancies.
- Take part in your community volunteering, sport or learning a new skill can all help you make a contribution to your community and will improve your physical and mental health. This is even more important if you are not able to work.
- Wash your hands with soap and, if you cough or sneeze use a tissue and place it in the bin. This will help you reduce your chances of catching and spreading infections like those that cause colds and flu or diarrhoea and vomiting. Simple, but it works.
- Make the most of opportunities to be screened or immunised, for example, the annual flu vaccination.