At the recent Wellbeing Forum, Seona Douglas, the new Director of Adult Care and Health Services at Reading Borough Council, outlined why we need to work together to address some of the challenges to the health and wellbeing of people in Reading.
Seona reminded us that health inequalities in Reading are real and widening: Reading’s poorest communities face the biggest challenges and in times of austerity, those in our poorest communities pay the highest price of all in terms of early ill health.
Specific challenges for Reading include:
- More people are dying early from cardiovascular disease.
- Low uptake of screening programmes for breast and bowel cancer.
- Higher levels of some sexually transmitted infections and of TB.
- Significantly higher numbers of men die as a direct result of alcohol.
- Homelessness and crime remain a concern.
- Significant numbers of children are overweight or obese, or have tooth decay.
- Higher numbers of young people are not in education employment or training.
- The prevalence of opiate users is higher than in similar populations.
Some recent success from working together
- We now have a better understanding of the local loneliness picture. Reading Voluntary Action carried out a survey, with the support of local charities and Reading Borough Council, and the results were presented to the Health and Wellbeing Board in October. We are now planning a series of ‘Champions to End Loneliness’ workshops, as well as a conference in February, ‘Let’s Make Reading Friendlier’.
- In October, there was the launch of the multi-agency Berkshire Suicide Prevention Strategy.
- Reading has an active Dementia Action Alliance with partners from the statutory, voluntary and commercial sectors. Reading now has 4,809 Dementia Friends in Reading and counting.
With continuing budgetary limitations, as well as increasing demands, we need to continue working together to support the most vulnerable people in Reading.