Fenland fatties

PUBLISHED: 10:50 24 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:07 28 May 2010

Fruit and veg may still be a popular seller at March Market this week- but the truth is we're eating nowhere near enough of them

Fruit and veg may still be a popular seller at March Market this week- but the truth is we're eating nowhere near enough of them

EXCLUSIVE by JOHN ELWORTHY A SHOCK report shows Fenland has the highest proportion of obese adults and the lowest proportion of people eating fresh fruit and vegetables daily in the whole of East Anglia. Not only that, but until recently, when Peterboroug

EXCLUSIVE by JOHN ELWORTHY

A SHOCK report shows Fenland has the highest proportion of obese adults and the lowest proportion of people eating fresh fruit and vegetables daily in the whole of East Anglia.

Not only that, but until recently, when Peterborough overtook us, Fenland had the worst male life expectancy in Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk.

The grim analysis does not stop there, for Fenland has the second lowest female life expectancy, the highest cancer mortality rate in the under 75s, and the second highest death rate in under 75s from heart disease.

The devastating picture of Fenland life, presented to health chiefs on Wednesday, portrays a population that smokes too much, refuses to diet, and fights shy of exercise.

One immediate outcome will be a 'Healthy Living Fens' project, which the East Cambs and Fenland Primary Care Trust hopes will attract £500,000 of Lottery funding to tackle a four-year healthy lifestyle initiative.

The report, by Dr Liz Robin, director of public health, says that throughout Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk, Fenland has:

* The second highest proportion of smokers

* The highest proportion of obese adults

* The lowest proportion of adults eating fresh fruit and vegetables daily.

It is not only older people who risk an early death by living in Fenland. Among 15 to 24-year-old males, Fenland's death rate is well above average, a high mortality rate which the report blames on road accidents.

"Health inequalities, including those in life expectancy, are closely related to the wider determinants of health such as education, income, employment and housing," says Dr Robin.

"In Fenland educational outcomes are particularly poor compared with the national average.

"And this emphasises the importance of addressing local health inequalities in the context of children and families."

Health chiefs who drew up a Fenland Spearhead Action Plan say that an enormous amount of work is needed to reverse the district's drastic health problems.

Key factors have been identified in Fenland which affect life expectancy - and health chiefs are determined current trends should be reversed.

They have identified three main areas where life expectancy has been affected.

1 A high mortality rate among 15-24 year old males, particularly from road accidents. The higher-than-average death rates among this age group reduced male life expectancy in Fenland by an additional 0.6 years.

2 Higher than average mortality rates among people aged 75-84, which accounted for an additional 0.3 years reduction in life expectancy. The trust believes this can be explained partly by older people with serious health problems coming into the area to live in nursing and residential homes.

3 Mortality rates from circulatory disease and cancer which, though not significantly different from the national average, are high for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. These are likely to reflect lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and physical activity as well as access to specialist treatment.

The Fenland Spearhead Action Plan says it may not be possible to address higher death rates related to people with serious health problems coming from elsewhere into local nursing homes.

But it does believe it can help reduce road deaths among young males, reduce premature deaths from circulatory disease and cancer, and tackle health inequalities.

Dr Liz Robin, the director of public health, said "synthetic estimates" have been drawn up to show the lifestyle issues affecting people in Fenland.

"Amongst local authorities in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, Fenland has the second highest proportion of smokers (27 per cent), the highest proportion of obese adults (29 per cent) and the lowest proportion of adults eating fruit and vegetables per day (19 per cent)" she added.

The £500,000 lottery funding, if secured, will:

* Increase the number of community volunteers leading on healthy lifestyle

* Increase physical activity and support healthy lifestyles

* Reduce social exclusion by improving access to services and awareness of services that support healthy lifestyles

* Enable older people to lead active lives and live independently in their own homes

* Improve the emotional and physical health of children and young people

"We don't know yet if we will get the bid, so I wouldn't want to raise expectations too much," added Dr Robin.

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