Southwark: Public Health in a diverse and young borough

Southwark: Public Health in a diverse and young borough

Earlier this month the 2016 Annual Report of the Director of Public Health for Southwark was published along with a statistical profile. There are encouraging signs of progress: women and men are living longer; earlier deaths from major diseases like heart disease and cancers are falling; infant deaths are falling year on year; and teenage pregnancy rates have fallen by 66% over the last decade. The number of smokers is reducing, the population is relatively active and fewer people drink alcohol.

However, there are still significant public health challenges facing the borough. In particular: very high child obesity rates and very poor sexual health. Health inequalities within the local population continue to widen at a time of financial constraints, requiring the need for innovation and collaboration to overcome these pressures and to make wellbeing a top priority.

In a population of 310,000  just under 48,000 are young people aged between 5 to 19. While rates of smoking and alcohol consumption in this age range is lower than London generally, substance misuse rates are increasing at a concerning level along with self-harm hospital admissions which is often linked to the prevalence of mental health disorders.

Whilst Southwark has made great strides in reducing teenage pregnancies, it remains in the top five areas in England for sexually transmitted infections.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a problem across all generations in Southwark, but particularly in young people, with over one in four 10-11 year-olds being obese.

All of these issues impacting on young people, are more prevalent from those which come from the most deprived backgrounds. Many of these inequalities, and the subsequent impact on health and wellbeing, were highlighted in our A Tale of Two Southwarks needs research paper published last month. And whilst unpicking the complex landscape of familiy relationships, housing etc can be difficult, the chances of succoumbing to bad habits can be reduced by the commissioning of meaningful and engaging activities. 

Activities for children and young people in Southwark: A strategy for 2017-2020, was approved by Cabinet just before Christmas. The Council recognises that the VCS has a crucial role to play in delivering non statutory activities for young people that generate positive life style changes and is working with the local voluntary sector to design a commissioning framework to achieve just this. Following discussion at our Children, Families and Young People Provider Led Group, Community Southwark hosted a Council led workshop with the VCS last week to translate some of the strategy’s key themes into measurable activities and outcomes for local young people.

Partnerships between all stakeholders are key in supporting effective prevention of risky behaviours and promoting physical and emotional health. Community Southwark will continue to work with the Council as they develop a commissioning process that will be rolled out in the coming months.