Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Comes off the Critical List; Region Shaking off Its Reputation for Unhealthy Living - but Experts Warn Work to Be Done

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Comes off the Critical List; Region Shaking off Its Reputation for Unhealthy Living - but Experts Warn Work to Be Done

Article excerpt

Byline: By Liz Hands Health correspondent

THE region could finally lose its label as the sick man of the UK after decades languishing at the bottom of health league tables.

A new report, released yesterday, says the North-East is shaking off the unhealthy legacy left by its industrial past.

While other areas of the country, like London's inner-city boroughs, are storing up health problems for the future, analysts say the picture in the North-East is improving.

But public health officials in the region said yesterday while the report was encouraging, the North-East still had a long way to go.

At the moment, Easington, County Durham, has the second worst health problems in the country, after Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.

The former Durham pit village has high levels of smoking, heart disease and obesity.

Analysts last year pinpointed one of its streets, Oak Road, as the "fattest" in the country, its residents being 22% more at risk of obesity than the national average.

But the new Health of the Nation Report, produced by market information companies CACI and TNS, ranks Easington at number 179, out of 408, of local authority areas which will have health problems in the future.

Most other areas in the region also slip down the table, or remain in a similar position, whereas places like Tower Hamlets, London, Manchester and Nottingham replace towns and cities in the North-East as the country's sickest areas.

The report analyses factors such as smoking, single-parent families, fast-food consumption, low consumption of fruit and vegetables, income and demographic characteristics.

But Dr Eugene Milne, deputy medical director of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authority, said: "It would be marvellous if health was improving that much in the region. But I think we've got to be realistic about it."

He said improvements were being made in some areas, such as heart disease and stroke. "We also have fantastic healthcare in the North-East," he added. "Our Stop Smoking service in Easington is fantastic for instance, outperforming those in other areas by a distance.

"But we are seeing other problems worsening, such as rising levels of obesity, our lung cancer rates are higher and I think we are yet to see a peak for industrial problems like asbestosis. …

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