Torbay Council’s Director of Public Health is calling for innovative ways for communities to tackle cardiovascular disease as figures show it is causing 1 in 4 deaths of 50–74-year-olds in Torbay.
Dr Lincoln Sargeant’s call comes as the world marks World Heart Day today and he launches his public health annual report.
One such innovation is delivering health checks in the community. Primary care teams have been piloting fresh ways to offer the NHS Health Check, a free check-up for adults aged 40-74 which assesses the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or diabetes.
The NHS Heath Check has been hailed as an essential tool in combatting heart disease by Dr Sargeant in his report, which this year focuses on cardiovascular, or heart, health.
These checks are normally arranged through GPs but in Torbay, outreach teams are working in partnership with local community organisations to deliver them.
The checks have been trialled at three organisations including The Haven, Paignton Community Hub and The Crafty Fox Café and Hub.
The aim is to overcome barriers to accessing healthcare and work with community organisations to support healthy hearts in the community.
No booking was required, and the check took just one 20-minute appointment compared with the normal two GP appointments.
As well as having the health check, clients were able to speak to NHS social prescribing link workers who joined the events to support people’s wider wellbeing.
As a result of this outreach, a range of long-term problems including pre-diabetes, high blood pressure and people at high risk of cardiovascular disease were picked up that might have been otherwise missed. This information was electronically sent back to the GP surgeries.
The primary care teams have gone on to upskill the host community organisations in doing blood pressure checks for their clients.
This has led to the Paignton Community Hub extending its blood pressure checks – it has so far done more than 130 for people already using the building on Mondays and Fridays.
Dr Sargeant’s annual report shows that in Torbay:
- Deaths from coronary heart disease were second only to cancer as the leading cause of premature deaths (deaths under 75 years)
- People in the most deprived fifth of the population are more than six times as likely to die early from heart disease than those in the least deprived.
- GPs in Torbay report higher rates of cardiovascular disease than GPs in England on average.
- 25% of reception age children in Torbay are overweight – increasing to 33% of children in year 6. Being overweight is a risk factor for future heart disease and is preventable.
Dr Sargeant said: “The early successes we have seen with these clinics shows that being more creative and imaginative in how we work with partners to promote good heart health is paying off.
“These outreach clinics are a success in part because they are taking place where people are going about their everyday activities.
“If they don’t want to go to their GP for whatever reason, they can still get this essential check, in a location where they feel comfortable.
“The important thing is that people are getting their blood pressure checked where they may have missed this opportunity. This can pick up if people are at risk of heart disease and other long-term conditions and early action can be taken.
“A knock-on benefit of these checks is that it’s led to further volunteers being trained up to carry on delivering them to others.”
Councillor Hayley Tranter, Cabinet Member for Adult and Community Services, Public Health and Inequalities, said: “We can all do something to improve our heart health and spread the message to our families and friends. It’s never too early or too late to start looking after your heart.
“It’s important to be aware of the risks – high blood pressure, smoking, excessive drinking and being overweight are all red flags. Another thing that people can do easily is calculate their heart age.
“You’re never too young to start thinking about heart health, which is why we are looking at school-based physical activity, active travel around school and supporting heart-healthy behaviours through Torbay on the Move, our plan to get more people, more active, more often.
“As a council, we’re keen to encourage people to stay active by using our green and blue spaces as much as possible. That’s why we launched our Healthy Selfie Trail of easy walks around the Bay earlier this year.”
The report also outlines the success of some of Torbay’s heart health groups – social support groups for people who have had heart problems or been identified as at risk of cardiovascular disease.
The report is officially launched at today’s resident engagement event at Paignton Community Hub between 10am and 4pm, when blood pressure checks will be available.
Members of the public health team will also be available to talk to residents, as will representatives from Your Health Torbay and a local GP surgery.
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