This year’s report draws on the importance of the health of the public in our society and its links to fairness, equality and justice. The role of politics – local, national and international – in health is unequivocal. While the health of the public in Devon is generally very good, both in terms of national comparisons and with similar geographic areas, as indicated by the Devon Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, there are areas of concern.
Overweight and obesity in adults and children; unhealthy levels of alcohol consumption; poor mental health and social isolation; violence and abuse – all of these are affected by the society within which we live and none has a single remedy. Action is necessary at local, national and international levels to address these issues.
An increasing emphasis on people taking greater responsibility for their own health is a large part of what is necessary to prevent deterioration in health and decline in independence in the later years of life. We need to continue to reduce the health inequality gap by improving the health of the worst-off in Devon, and ensuring all children in Devon have the best start possible in life is an effective way of tackling health inequality in later life. A balance needs to be struck between early intervention for long-term conditions and not over-diagnosing or over-treating people’s health conditions – which is why the regular surveillance of health outcomes and disease trends is so important.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health