North is fittest

Adults in the North-East have been declared the most physically active in the country, as the region takes strides to banish its reputation as a health black-spot.

Adults in the North-East have been declared the most physically active in the country, as the region takes strides to banish its reputation as a health black-spot.

People in Teesdale came top in the country for getting active while people in Durham and Alnwick also made the top 10 in profiles giving a snapshot of health in the region, published by the government yesterday.

The region also scored well in other categories, with five areas ranked in the top 10 of the "ecological footprint" stakes for England.

The results, published in health profiles for every council area in the country, show the North-East is taking steps to shake off its notorious unhealthy image.

But there is still work to be done.

Dr Eugene Milne, acting assistant regional director of public health, welcomed publication of the health profiles.

"The North-East is gradually managing to shake off its `sick-man' reputation. Heart disease and cancer deaths are falling across the region, and are doing so faster than the national average," he said.

"But it will still take many years at current rates to match the national picture. We need to accelerate that trend. Our aim is to achieve the best health in the country, and to make it happen sooner rather than later."

A snapshot of health in every council area in England was published by the Government yesterday. The updated health profiles provide information on a range of issues, including life expectancy and smoking.

They are designed to help councils and the NHS decide where to target resources to tackle health inequalities in their local area.

As well as being active, the region also scored well in the ecological footprint stakes (the amount of land required to support an average resident's lifestyle), with five areas - Easington, Wear Valley, Hartlepool, Sedgefield and Wansbeck - making the top 10.

They all had below the England average for an ecological footprint, which is measured by low overall spending, low spending on one category such as food, or relatively low spending on a category with a disproportionate impact, such as heating.

But the picture was considerably less healthy as far as binge drinking, smoking rates and life expectancy were concerned.

Dr Milne said of the profiles: "They provide useful summaries of what we know about health and inequalities for local people across a range of important factors.

"They will come as little surprise to local councils and NHS planners, but should help in shaping local decision-making as well as setting priorities for improving health and well-being."

Launched last year, the profiles are sent to every local councillor, strategic health authority, primary care trust and MP, as well as being available on the web. They were an essential ingredient of a food and health service review across County Durham and Darlington Primary Care Trusts.

They also proved invaluable in identifying wards in the same area with the highest levels of deprivation based on life expectancy to establish service priorities.

Public health minister Caroline Flint said: "Information about health and wellbeing in your local area is essential for assessing the needs of the local population and monitoring how well health improvement strategies are working."

The health profiles can be viewed at www.communityhealthprofiles.info

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Health Profiles: Tyne & Wear and County Durham

Gateshead

On average, men in Gateshead live 75 years and women 79.5 years.

About 17% of adults are estimated to eat five portions of fruit and vegetable a day.

North Tyneside

The rate of reported violent crime and the rate of road injuries and deaths are lower than average.

The percentage of people with recorded diabetes is higher than average for England: diabetes affects at least 8,080 people in North Tyneside.

South Tyneside

A lower than average percentage of adults is estimated to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

26% of adults are estimated to binge drink and the rate of people admitted to hospital for alcohol specific conditions is also higher than average.

Sunderland

It is estimated that about 33% of adults smoke The death rate from smoking and the rates of early deaths from heart disease and stroke and from cancer are all higher than average. On average, smoking kills about 600 people each year in Sunderland.

Chester-le-Street

The rate of early deaths from cancer is higher than average.

The rate of people claiming sickness benefits because of mental health problems is higher than average.

Derwentside

The teenage pregnancy rate is higher than average.

About 31% of adults smoke and about 25% of adults binge drink.

Wear Valley

Income depravation and child poverty are above average with about 28% of children living in households dependent on means-tested benefits. A higher percentage of adults are estimated to be obese: about 26% against a 22% average for England.

Teesdale

Has the highest estimated percentage of physically active adults in England with about 17% estimated to be physically active compared with the 12% estimated average for England.

The rate of smoking among adults is estimated to be lower than average with about 23% of adults smoking.

Sedgefield

An estimated lower percentage of adults eat healthily; about 15% of adults eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

The teenage pregnancy rate is higher than average.

Newcastle

It is estimated that about 32% of adults smoke, compared with an estimated average of 26% for England.

Men in Newcastle live 74.9 years compared with 76.9 years for England - and life expectancy for women is 80.2 years compared with the England average of 81.1 years.

Easington

Has the highest estimated rate of adults who smoke: about 37%, compared with the 26% estimated average for England.

Has the highest rate in England of people claiming sickness benefits because of mental health problems.

Durham

A higher percentage of adults are estimated to be physically active: about 16% for Durham compared with about 12% for England as a whole.

The percentage of people with recorded diabetes is below average but the condition still affects at least 2,690 people in Durham

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Health Profiles: Northumberland

Alnwick

Has the lowest infant death rate in England.

The rate of road injuries and deaths is higher than average.

Berwick Upon Tweed

Estimates suggest that about 26% of adults are obese compared with about 22% for England.

The percentage of people with recorded diabetes is higher than average; diabetes affects at least 1,180 people in Berwick.

Blyth Valley

About 25% of adults are estimated to binge drink and the rate of people admitted to hospital for alcohol specific conditions is also higher than average.

On average, men in Blyth Valley live 74.9 years compared with 76.9 years for England and life expectancy for women is 80.1 years compared with England average of 81.1 years.The death rate from smoking and rate of early deaths from heart disease and stroke are higher than average; on average smoking kills about 170 people each year in Blyth Valley.

Castle Morpeth

Compared with England, Castle Morpeth has a lower than average teenage pregnancy rate.

It is estimated that about 20% of adults smoke compared to an average of 26% for England.

Tynedale

Infant death rate is among the lowest in England.

About 24% of adults are estimated to binge drink.

Wansbeck

The teenage pregnancy rate is higher than average.

Adult obesity is estimated to be higher than average.

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