New strategy will help council keep residents healthy for five years

A health strategy that focuses on wellness, and not treating illness, has been approved for the Isle of Wight.

At a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet last week, Director of Public Health, Simon Bryant, introduced a strategy which will help the council keep residents healthy for the next five years.

He said: “We know people want to be healthy, having a good quality of life and being in control of their health is important.

“This strategy sets out some key issues for us to improve the health of the Island’s population, how we manage demand for services and we know we need to move to a wellness model, shifting to preventative and early intervention models.

“This does come at a time of a public health emergency and we really do need to focus on protecting and promoting the health of the population.”

The strategy is laid out in five sections, which focuses on different aspects of life to ensure the wellbeing and health of residents.

The first is for a good start in life, the first 1,000 days of a child’s life starting from pregnancy until the age of two, laying the foundations for brain development and healthy growth.

This will include support for parents to be in good health before the baby is born, and a particular focus on getting smokers to quit before the birth, commissioned services for caregivers and in accident prevention to avoid children experiencing physical trauma.

Also, provisions to give a good education for every child, promoting a healthy learning environment due to the strong relationship between education and future health and wellbeing — which the council’s strategy says is a contributing factor to greater employment opportunities.

Second is physical wellbeing – healthy lifestyles and healthy ageing – as the life expectancy on the Island is increasing. However, the strategy says that although we are living longer lives, we are not living healthier ones so a focus will be on preventing avoidable illnesses as a result of smoking, poor diets, lack of physical exercise and excessive alcohol consumption.

The Island has one of the oldest populations in the country and it is thought by 2028 almost one in three people living on the Isle of Wight will be over 65 years old. The approach to supporting older people to remain in good health for as long as possible will continue.

Tying in with the second, mental wellbeing, the third section, is being given the same amount of importance with a big push to promote positive emotional wellbeing, early intervention and reducing the impact of disorders.

The fourth section, healthy places, is about providing healthy communities for people to enjoy living and working in. Risk factors of serious violence will be used to prevent reduce harm, particularly domestic violence while healthy settings, including green and blue spaces, food environment and planning decisions will also play a part.

Finally, protecting the population from harm in the form of prevention, and preparation and response to emergencies, such as outbreaks and infections which could pose a threat to the community.

The council say it will work with partners to increase the uptake of childhood vaccination programmes to prevent outbreaks of infections such as measles, which had been declared eliminated in England, occurring on the Island.

It was recognised by Mr Bryant that inequalities underpinned the strategy and that some people don’t experience good health in the way others do but pledged to tackle them wherever they are found in the strategy.

Cllr Clare Mosdell, cabinet member for adult social care and public health said it was appropriate to present the strategy now, which was delayed due to Covid-19, during a public health emergency.

She said: “The pandemic reminds us good public health is essential for a prosperous healthy island.

“Tackling issues like dementia requires action across the whole life course and we know it is important to take action at all stages in life.

“Mental and physical health are of equal importance and connected with positive lifestyles, can positively impact on both aspects of health.”

Cabinet members voted unanimously to approve and adopt the health strategy which will be in place until 2025.