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Doing better things – how Bristol intends to turn the tide on health inequality

11 August 2016

Bristol’s Director of Public Health, Becky Pollard, has released her annual report on the state of the city’s health.

Set against a backdrop of health inequalities, where a person’s life expectancy can vary by over 10 years depending on where they live in the city, the report highlights actions that can be taken now to reduce preventable early death and ill health.

Evidence shows that smoking, drinking, being inactive and having a poor diet are linked to the four main diseases which cause around half of all early deaths in the city. These diseases, in order of prevalence starting with the most common, include cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and liver disease. As well as lifestyle, other risk factors include an individual’s social and economic position and genetics.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said:

“Tackling inequality is top of our agenda and a crucial part of that involves improving the health of citizens at every stage of their lives. Too often people from poorer backgrounds have the worst health outcomes. These differences are largely preventable, yet this is one of the biggest challenges we face as the problem is growing. As we move towards a more integrated health and social care system I welcome this report shining a light on how we can work together towards becoming a healthier city.”

The report outlines the challenges and recommendations for Bristol where almost 20% of the adult population smokes, 57% of adults are overweight or obese, 39% of adults and 83% of 15 year olds are not active enough and 28% of adults drink above the recommended levels.

Becky Pollard, Bristol’s Director of public health, said:

“The purpose of public health is to help people stay well as we all know that prevention is better than cure. This report looks at the evidence about what works for local people and how we can make a lasting difference. But it’s not just early death we need to address. Helping more people live in good health for longer and reducing the impact of disease on disability will not only improve quality of life for individuals, but also reduce pressure on our NHS, social services and society by enabling citizens to remain living well in their own homes.”

The five main recommendations made by the report include

  1. embedding health in all policies
  2. asking Bristol’s Health and Wellbeing Board to review the city’s early intervention work and identify any gaps
  3. strengthening work with children and families
  4. training front line staff
  5. working in partnership to consolidate public health’s efforts to reduce health inequalities

Councillor Fi Hance, Cabinet Member for city health and wellbeing, said:

“The commitment to embed health into all policies has huge potential to bring about positive change. Alongside this we need to be delivering interventions that work and this report will help make sure we’re focusing our resources correctly. Ultimately, we want to empower communities and individuals to embrace healthy lifestyles and value prevention over cure.”

Alongside the key recommendations, the report outlines cost-effective public health interventions in relation to smoking, drinking, inactivity and poor diet, which need to be addressed at a local and national level alongside social and economic factors.

For smokers, access to quitting services, supportive social networks and smoke free environments is key, as well as preventing young people from starting in the first place. To tackle alcohol the report advocates scanning for problems via GP surgeries, using online cognitive behaviour therapy treatments and specialist interventions, as well as hospital alcohol care team referrals to community services.

Encouraging active travel, participation in sports and promoting activity in schools and workplaces is identified as being key to tackling physical inactivity. Poor diet can be addressed by ensuring healthier options are stocked in workplaces and leisure centres, training staff with influence over catering contracts, promoting healthy choices in schools.

Read the full report online at

Doing better things – how Bristol intends to turn the tide on health inequality
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