Firstly, I would like to thank everyone across the district who took part in the elections last month.
I am honoured to have been re-elected as Leader of Wakefield Council by the Labour Group and you have my absolute commitment that I will continue to put you, our residents and customers, at the very heart of everything we do.
It is with this in mind that I would like to share some of the concerns I have about the health and wellbeing of the district.
I spend a lot of time listening to people, of all ages, from all parts of the district, and one of the key challenges many are facing are health related.
Weight and health issues are alarmingly on the rise. Over 183,000 adults in this district are classed as overweight, and even more worryingly, two out of every 10 of our children – that’s about 650 - are obese when they leave primary school, aged 11.
Although fewer people in the district are smoking we still have about 65,300 adults who are smokers, and last year, around 8,700 people were admitted to hospital for alcohol related conditions.
The impact on people’s quality of life can be truly dreadful.
Life-changing and life-limiting illnesses are a real and harsh consequence of being overweight, smoking or drinking to excess.
The risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes is significantly increased, along with depression.
There are other impacts on our district, especially the NHS.
It is estimated that over £63m is spent by the NHS treating obesity related illnesses in Wakefield.
Campaign group ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) believes that smoking costs the district’s economy approximately £105m a year and Alcohol Concern estimates that healthcare costs in Wakefield, attributable to alcohol, are approximately £18m a year.
Keeping healthy is not about the ‘nanny state’ and I firmly believe it is the responsibility of an individual to take the necessary steps to look after their own health – if they want to.
But, I also want to find out what we, as a council, can do to support our residents who want to make more healthy choices.
I accept that this isn’t for everyone, but if people have health issues and want to make changes then let’s find out how we can help.
If you have made changes to your life, which have resulted in improvements to your health and well-being, I would be very interested to hear from you.
Maybe your experience will enable us to identify the support we can offer to other people, or inspire others to make changes?
If we work together on this then we have a better chance of helping, those who want to, to improve the quality of their lives and maybe even save their lives.