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Sheffield's Director of Public Health, Greg Fell
Sheffield's Director of Public Health, Greg Fell

What would you do with an extra year?

9 March 2017

Increasing Sheffielders’ healthy life expectancy by one year is the main aim of a new public health strategy set to be agreed by council officials next week.

Sheffield City Council’s public health strategy for 2017-2019 will go before a cabinet committee meeting on Wednesday 15 March. It has an overall vision of improving people’s healthy life expectancy, and reducing the difference in healthy life expectancy between different parts of the city.

Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for health and social care at Sheffield City Council, said: “This is an ambitious new public health strategy that intends to bring new ideas and fresh approaches to what we do as a council to make our city healthier.

“Health and wellbeing for the city is a civic responsibility and we will not shy away from making the changes we need to make – even though this will involve changing cultures, changing procedures and challenging the status quo.

“This will not be easy and we cannot, as a council, change health inequalities by ourselves. But we want to make real, tangible, changes on the ground that improve the lives of Sheffielders, particularly those in less healthy areas of the city, in the years to come.”

The overall aim of the strategy, written by Director of Public Health Greg Fell, is to increase healthy life expectancy by one year over the next 10 years, focusing on making improvements fastest in those areas where people currently have shorter healthy lives.

The measure of healthy life expectancy combines how long people live with how many years they live with illness. For example, women in Sheffield can expect to live to the age of 82, but more than 20 of those years are lived with ill health – giving a healthy life expectancy of 59, compared to the England average of 64.

Men in Sheffield, meanwhile, have a healthy life expectancy of 61, compared to the England average of 63.

By making people healthier for longer, this will in turn equate to significant number of years of illness and disability avoided, and much lower care costs.

The strategy considers how people can be given the best start in life and how they can be supported to live longer and healthier lives, with an explicit focus on inequalities.

There will be a continued commitment to a community-based approach to health, and continued investment in primary care, especially in the most disadvantaged parts of the city.

The strategy also recommends a refocused effort on the link between employment and health, through the development of a comprehensive strategy for work and health. This will focus on finding new ways to help people get back into work, and stay healthy at work.

One recommendation is to adopt a principle of “Health in All Policies”, which will take into account the health implications of the council’s decisions and challenge the way existing resources are committed. For example, the expectation would be that policy in areas such as licensing, planning or transport should deliver health gains.

A system would be maintained and developed to protect the population from preventable infections and environmental hazards, and risks to health would continue to be reduced through vaccination and screening programmes.

Healthy lifestyles would also be promoted, and the council would publish and implement detailed strategies around areas such as food, tobacco, alcohol, drugs and physical activity.

Coun McDonald added: “This is not necessarily about new resources, but about doing the very best we can with what we have, in what we all know is a time of great budget pressures.

“The task we face is one of reimagining health in our city, setting out what sort of city we want to see in the future, and making sure that we make the investments and changes we need now to achieve this.”

The draft public health strategy is now available online, in advance of next week’s meeting, on the Sheffield City Council website.