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On a mission to improve the health of the region

02 December 2003 @TeessideUni


Researchers at the University of Teesside, who are on a mission to improve the health and well-being of people living in the North East of England, have been awarded a major cash boost to help their work.

The research team is led by Professor of Public Health John Wilkinson and Carolyn Summerbell, Reader in Human Nutrition, in the University of Teesside's School of Health & Social Care. They report that despite a steady overall improvement in the health of most people living in the North East of England - inequalities of health are on the increase.

Professor Wilkinson, who also directs the North East Public Health Observatory, said: "There is a growing gap between rich and poor in terms of health and the spectre of chid poverty is returning to the region. In recent years there has also been the fresh challenge of new infectious diseases such as BSE and Sars."

The Teesside-based research, which aims to find ways to help cure the region's poor health record, was initially funded by a £15,000 grant from the Government Office North East. This has now been supplemented by a £238,000 grant from the University's Research Assessment Exercise funds.

"The additional funding will enable us to expand the team and the level of work we are carrying out. A dedicated researcher Lee Thompson has joined us and we will be investigating what more can be done to improve the region's health profile, particularly diet.

"A history of economic decline, coupled with high levels of smoking and poor diet, all contribute to health problems in the North East," he says.

To counter this plight, Professor Wilkinson says it is important that the North East develops an effective health strategy for the region, working with and building on national initiatives such as the school fruit scheme campaign to encourage healthy-eating and moves to encourage people to walk more and take up cycling and other forms of exercises.

Maintaining a sensible weight and cutting down on Friday night binge-drinking sessions are also high on Professor Wilkinson's agenda for a more healthy North East region.

But some things will require national or international action, such as the levels of employment and the standard of housing in the region as well as moves to encourage supermarkets to stock healthier foods.

The University of Teesside is planning to hold a conference on 'Reducing Inequalities in health in Teesside' on 18 June, 2004. Speakers already confirmed include the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dr Liam Donaldson, and the Regional Director of Public Health for Yorkshire and the Humber and Professor Paul Johnstone.