Did you know that Maidstone Borough Council has an Action Plan to address inequalities in Maidstone health? This was put together in 2012 and adopted by the Council in July 2014. The Council has taken an opportunity to review progress so far.
The purpose of the action plan is to reduce health inequalities across the borough of Maidstone because they have a detrimental effect on the social and environmental factors which affect our lives. Targeted partnership working is a key driver behind the project so you should expect to see a more joined up approach in the future.
So what does this mean for you if you are over 65?
Whilst the borough of Maidstone is a thriving community there are great differences within the smaller localities. We have some of the most affluent communities in England but sitting next right next to them are some of the most deprived. It is a well documented fact that deprivation and social exclusion will adversely affect health and statistics show that this leads to a shorter life expectancy.
Maidstone Borough Council has set up a Health and Wellbeing Group to tackle this. I sit on a sub group of this board – the Maidstone Health and Ageing Well Board.
Maidstone Borough Council want to develop their health inequalities action plan by:
• Developing a joined up approach to health improvement by tackling the underlying causes of ill health, improving housing, creating employment and a safe, healthy and sustainable environment;
• Delivering short, medium and long term actions which result in sustainable health improvements; and
• Targeting areas and priority groups (such as the elderly) to empower their communities
The statistics that the Council have provided are startling. The average life expectancy across Maidstone varies from 85 in Downswood and Otham to 76 in Sutton Valence and Langley.
What is rather surprising is that in all of the reports and documents there seems to be a surprising lack of attention paid to our older communities. The Council want to ensure that every child is given the best start in life and have made a number of recommendations in relation to this. They want our middle ages to have control of their lives but only seem to want to make our older generations live long, provide help with dementia and prevent falling. In reviewing the Action Plan of twenty three pages we have only found the following information relating to the over 65s.
What facts have come out of the Action Plan:
• there are over 7000 people aged over 65 in Maidstone
• fewer than 3000 report their health as being bad or very bad
• there are 2118 people living with dementia in Maidstone
• those living with dementia will double over the next 30 years
• falls for older people have increased by 53% over the last five years in West Kent
These figures are very helpful but do not take into account those who do not report ill health, or those who live with dementia but remain undiagnosed and outside the system, or those who do not report when they fall over or have other issues which are never reported.
What targets have been set for our older communities:
• Reduce the numbers of hip fractures in 65+ by 2% by 2020
• Reduce excess winter deaths by 2020
• Reduce inequality in male life expectancy by 2020
• Reduce inequality in female life expectancy by 2020
Whilst the recommendations across the board in the Action Plan will have an impact on the older members of our communities there are few specific recommendations to help with the issues experienced by our older generations. Focus has been made on dementia, falls and life expectancy but little is said about how this can be achieved other than by working together.
Surely the ageing process does not just focus around these issues?
• There is no mention of how joined up working can help. The Action Plan revolves around local and health authorities and the voluntary sector working together. It does not mention pooling resources with the private sector who can also contribute towards a better quality of life.
• What about loneliness and isolation. By making sure that a lonely older person is seen as often as possible by others we would reduce loneliness. We can all do this by popping in to see if our neighbour wants some shopping, or delivering a cake if we are baking at home, or making a telephone call.
• What about looking at what communities do well and replicating that elsewhere. If we know that a local community has a great lunch club lets go and talk to them and see how this could be replicated in another village.
• If one organisation does something really well like providing a falls clinic why are they not in charge of the provision of falls support across the borough to ensure that they receive the funding because they provide the best care.
Perhaps we should spend much more time looking at the easy wins that make a huge difference rather than trying to fix the world. Is it not better to start with the smaller achievable goals than those which will take forever to plan and action?
Do you have any suggestions that I can take to the Health and Ageing Well Board? Are there events in your community that are successful that could be replicated elsewhere? Is there anything you want to see in your community that would improve quality of life. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07732 165657.
Published by Kelly Duke 22 August 2016