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Theme 4: Improve physical and mental health and well-being

Summary :: Our Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy :: Theme 4: Improve physical and mental health and well-being

Increasing attention is being paid not just to how long people live, but also how well they live. Quality of life is affected by many issues, including crime and the perception of crime, unemployment, the quality of employment for those who do have work, stress, the ability to live independently and autonomously and freedom from pain and ill-health. Quality of life is also very strongly affected by physical health and four main risk factors need to be reduced: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity and poor diet. While smoking prevalence has fallen nationally and in Medway in recent years, the prevalence in 2013 was 21.8%, significantly higher than the national average. There is also considerable variation in the prevalence across Medway with 16.2% in Rainham Central and 39.8% in Chatham Central. There is much evidence to support the positive health effects of smoking cessation and continued efforts to reduce smoking must be supported.

The other major causes are more difficult to address than smoking, and recent trends have shown there have small increases in alcohol-related hospital admissions in Medway and increases in obesity. Each of these risk factors are aspects of “lifestyle”, a concept that superficially sounds quite simple, yet involves a complex interaction of personal choice and responses to the social and physical environment. People need to make the right choices as they have a personal responsibility for their own health, and this happens more readily in an environment in which these choices are the easy or are the default choices.

One particularly important aspect of well-being is mental well-being. According to estimates derived from the 2007 psychiatric morbidity survey for England, in Medway in 2011 there were 33,500 people at any one time living with common mental health problems and 783 with a psychotic disorder. In February 2011 the total number of people in Medway claiming incapacity benefit was 7,120. Of these, 2,950 (42%) were claiming incapacity benefit for mental health reasons.

Nationally a five step approach is being promoted to improve mental well-being. These steps are directed at individuals, however creating a supportive environment that makes it easy for people to take these steps is likely to lead to more people doing so. This may involve, for example, encouraging neighbours to work together on a local project or engage together in a celebration; ensuring that Medway is a pleasant and safe place to walk and cycle; providing courses or venues for others to run courses; and promoting volunteering.