Wealden District Council

Helping create a healthier Wealden

Media Release : 12 October 2017

The new Healthy Wealden Strategy, approved at Cabinet, aims to work with local residents to encourage them to take a greater responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

Health walk Wealden 1

With increasing pressure on health budgets, and growing problems of childhood obesity and loneliness taking a toll on public health, Wealden District Council is seeking to utilise a range of resources to help local people to help themselves.

“We have always sought to improve the wellbeing of residents through the work we do in housing, environmental health, planning, and leisure services, but we are now doing more: working with other organisations to provide the activities and support which can improve people’s health,” said Councillor Claire Dowling. “We are not aiming to provide healthcare, but avoid the need for healthcare, particularly to offset the effects of modern lifestyles which are having a detrimental effect on health. With people living longer, we would like to help them remain active and healthy, and avoid some of the problems which prevail in later life, such as loneliness.”

Some health facts about people in Wealden:

  • 26% of Year Six children in Wealden are classified at obese – in England this is 34%.
  • 64% of Wealden adults are classified as obese – in England this is 63%.
  • 63% of Wealden adults complete 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
  • 1,159 patients are registered as having dementia in Wealden, although the number of people living with dementia could be nearly 8,000.
  • 65 + is the most prevalent age group within Wealden.
  • 1.2 years is the increase in live expectancy in Wealden since 2012.

Loneliness is likely to be a significant issue for a proportion of Wealden residents. Some 10-13% of people aged 65 or over are thought to be lonely. Wealden has a higher proportion (26%) of residents in this category, and factors such as marital status, health, age and household size can increase the risk.

Public Health England has identified that physical activity can reduce the risk of dementia, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression, and hip fractures by 30% or more.

Age UK say loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 30%, and is associated with conditions such as depression, sleep problems, dementia and hypertension.

The Wealden Health & Wellbeing Strategy particularly focuses on what the Council can do to encourage active lifestyles and reduce loneliness. As well as the provision of four leisure centres in Wealden, managed for the Council by Freedom Leisure, the District has many miles of public footpath and is developing a number of open access areas for the public. This year it declared a Year of Walking and is actively promoting a range of group walks, self-guided walks, health walks and wheel chair walks. A review of one of the District’s most popular paths, the Cuckoo Trail, is currently underway to explore how better signage and other incentives could encourage more people to enjoy exercising there.

Last year the Council set up the Wealden Dementia Action Alliance which supports dementia groups across the District, organising Movies Make Memories – dementia-friendly film screenings – and encouraging Dementia Friends training.

New initiatives include the social prescribing health pilot in partnership with Herstmonceux Health Centre and Freedom Leisure, which is encouraging patients to be more socially and physical active. Through its housing, planning, economic and community regeneration services, Wealden is looking to provide and maintain social and sports venues across the District. It also provides activity days for young people and digital inclusion sessions for older people.

Freedom Leisure delivers a wide programme of targeted projects such as a GP referral scheme, weight management, cardiac rehabilitation, chronic lower back pain relief and pre & post-natal exercise. It hosts the Active Play and Sports Development team who deliver outreach children’s activity sessions across the District as well as supporting projects such as Active4All (disabled children’s sessions) and walking football for older people.

A copy of Healthy Wealden – A Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2017- 20 can be download here: http://council.wealden.gov.uk/documents/s55112/Cabinet%20report%20Healthy%20Wealden%20final.pdf