Poor coastal health 'overlooked' by government, says Chris Whitty

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty Picture: Leon Neal/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Higher rates of disease and lower life expectancy in our coastal towns have been "overlooked" by the government, according to a report by chief medical officer Chris Whitty.

He said coastal towns have a high burden of health challenges in both physical and mental conditions, often with lower life expectancy and higher rates of major diseases.

Mr Whitty's Health in Coastal Communities report has been developed over the last year and urges the government to develop a national strategy to improve the health of coastal communities.

A busy Yarmouth seafront on Good Friday.PHOTO: Nick Butcher

A busy Yarmouth seafront on Good Friday.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

He said the reason for the coast's health was down to a number of factors including an elderly population, difficulties in attracting NHS staff to the areas and an over supply of guest housing which has led to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

The report said HMOs led to concentrations of deprivation and ill health.


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Mr Whitty said: "Coastal areas are some the most beautiful, vibrant and historic places in the country.

"They also have some of the worst health outcomes with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.

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"These communities have often been overlooked by governments and the ill-health hidden because their outcomes are merged with wealthier inland areas.

"A national strategy informed by local leaders and experts will help reduce inequalities and preventable ill health.

"If we do not tackle the health problems of coastal communities vigorously and systematically there will be a long tail of preventable ill health which will get worse as current populations age."

A stroll along the promenade at Lowestoft.

A stroll along the promenade at Lowestoft. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Health secretary Sajid Javid added: "I welcome this report from Professor Chris Whitty, which raises important points on inequalities that we must tackle to improve the health of coastal communities - and I will carefully consider these recommendations.

"Those living in coastal areas clearly face different sets of challenges to those inland but everybody, no matter where they live, should have similar opportunities in education, housing, employment and health.

"We are committed to levelling up across the nation and the new Office for Health Promotion - launching in the Autumn - will drive and support the whole of government to go further in improving people’s health."



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