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People in Kent facing rise in obesity, depression, mental health issues and domestic violence

Obesity, depression, mental health issues and domestic violence are all on the rise in Kent, according to a new report.

The study, which highlights serious social and health challenges facing the county’s two million residents, shows people are living shorter, unhealthier lives, particularly in coastal communities.

Obesity is on the rise in Kent. Stock image
Obesity is on the rise in Kent. Stock image

The issues are highlighted in the Kent and Medway Integrated Care Strategy, which contains input from many bodies including Kent County Council (KCC), Medway Council and the NHS.

The report will be discussed at the Kent Health and Wellbeing Board, which includes KCC leader Roger Gough and his children's services lead Cllr Sue Chandler, on Thursday at County Hall in Maidstone.

It says “determinants” which impact health include education, housing, environment, transport, employment and community safety.

The challenges facing the county are set against the backdrop of a population growing faster than the national average - up 20% in two decades to 2031.

The report states: Life expectancy is no longer increasing. In Medway, Swale and Thanet, it is below the average for England.

“In all areas (apart from Thanet), the gap in life expectancy is wider for men than for women.”

More than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese while physical activity levels for children and young people are not increasing, says the document.

It records that the “prevalence” of smoking in Swale is far higher at 21% than 12% in west Kent.

In Medway it has been shown that residents on the start of a bus line are living 10 years on average less than those at the end - demonstrating the stark health inequalities facing residents of the Towns.

A recent study for a private clinic showed Sevenoaks as the sixth healthiest place to live in the country based on factors such as environment, behaviour and disease.

The same survey, based on official public records, had Thanet sitting at 233rd out of 342. Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells and Folkestone and Hythe were 79th, 82nd and 120th respectively.

More people are smoking in Swale than in west Kent. Picture: iStock
More people are smoking in Swale than in west Kent. Picture: iStock

The Kent and Medway Integrated Care Strategy suggests Kent and Medway lag behind the national average on some indicators of economic success, including productivity and skill levels.

More people are suffering depression and severe mental health issues while incidences of domestic abuse are on the rise.

Supporting papers state: “The strategy presents an opportunity to do things differently, further integrating health and care services to better meet the needs of individuals and communities, support the sustainability of health and care services and go beyond ‘traditional’ NHS and social care services to enable action on the wider determinants of health with other partners.

“The wider determinants of health are critical because it is known that only about 20% of a person’s health is related to clinical care, with the other 80% being attributable to health behaviours, socio-economic factors including education, employment and family/social support, and the built environment.”

Three years ago, England’s chief medical officer's annual report highlighted coastal communities have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.

The report notes: “Coastal communities – of which there are many in Kent and Medway – often have multiple overlapping, but addressable, health problems.”

More and more people are suffering from depression. Picture: iStock
More and more people are suffering from depression. Picture: iStock

It also says that Kent and Medway lags behind the national average on some indicators of economic success, such as productivity and skill levels.

The strategy does not offer specific solutions to issues it raises.

But it does state: “To improve health and wellbeing, we must tackle the wider determinants of health and address increasing health inequalities.

“We can only do this if we all play our role and work together to maximise our collective impact.

“We can all contribute using the assets and opportunities we already have to promote health and wellbeing and prevent ill-health.”

It adds: “This strategy uses a consensus to agree and focus on the priorities we must deliver together as a system, so all partners can target our limited resources and assets where we can make the biggest improvements and deliver value for money together.

“This strategy should not provide the ‘how’. We recognise that local partners are best placed to understand local needs and the actions required to tackle them. The strategy will be supported by delivery plans which are organisation or subject matter specific.

The strategy will enable a balance between universal preventative services and bespoke additional support for those with greatest needs, also known as proportionate universalism.”

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