This fourth Annual Report on the health of the population of Devon has older people as its theme. So far the Annual Public Health Reports have focused on inequalities in health (2007-08), children and young people (2008-09) and mental health (2009-10).
The overview of health in Devon and the demographic change illustrates the importance of planning for the future. We have some significant challenges arising from our ability to meet the needs of local people fully at the moment, for example, preventing falls, management of long-term health conditions, including dementia, and supporting carers. Big increases in the proportion of older people in the population mean that these are priorities for us locally.
We have been making good progress on reducing preventable early mortality but this year the information suggests that we are not keeping pace with others and we must put more emphasis on preventing avoidable ill health wherever possible. Many of the causes of ill health, such as smoking and obesity, are the reason for shorter life expectancy, particularly in disadvantaged populations. The use of modelling tools to improve health where it is the worst in Devon all show how big an effect reducing smoking could make. As well as improving health, earlier detection of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer would be expected to produce significant improvements in our health statistics.
As before, I have included a section on progress towards achieving recommendations contained in the earlier reports. I am grateful to all my colleagues for their contributions to this year’s report and commend it to you.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Joint Executive Director of Public Health