Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Darlington Assembly

Last Friday I went along to Darlington's Assembly - the meeting of the Local Strategic Partnership that brings together the private, public and voluntary sectors in the Borough.

Over 200 people attended to hear final feedback from the Enquiry Groups - the 6 teams examining the key issues facing Darlington.

There was a really positive mood in the sessions I attended - a lot of the cynicism in the air over recent months seems to have blown away, helped by the hard work undertaken by the chairs of each of the Groups. These people weren't the "usual suspects" but individuals who had been somewhat sceptical of the LSP process. Their conclusions commanded widespread support.

Of particular interest to me were the recommendations from Enquiry Group 6 on Health and Leisure, chaired by Pete Barron. You can see some of the key recommendations from the Group here. It's horrifying that men in Lingfield ward on average can expect to live to just 69 - well below the national average - but in Park West the age is 82.

The findings will form the basis of my work as a Cabinet member over the next 12 months, and I will ensure that each report I make to Council leads on the progress that we are making, working together with partners in the Borough.


Aeres said...


I'm not sure if I'm being contentious here, but I personally think that the obsession with increasing life expectancy can go too far sometimes and that factors of personal choice can get ignored as a consequence.

I accept that, as a statistical average, a non-smoking, teetotalling, 'healthy eater' is likely to live longer than a smoking alcohol drinker who prefers fry-ups to vegetables. However, I would personally contend that if the second guy is fully aware that the fags, booze and fat probably won't do his health much good (and let's be honest - everybody IS aware of this nowadays) then I say fair enough - let him live his life how he wants to.

At what point does society have the right to step in and tell him to stop what he's doing just so that some governmental life expectancy target has to be reached? I would say that it doesn't personally. Society should probably have the right to claw back any extra burden that this group makes upon public services by way of taxation but as this is already in place (and I believe goes way beyond it in terms of the taxation on tobacco) then I say let them get on with it and enjoy themselves.

Now, I'm not saying that the males of Lingfield all fall into this category, but judging from the recommendations listed in the report these are the fields that will be targeted. Might I suggest that instead of yet another awareness campaign that smoking kills/eat 5 a day/drugs are bad/stay off the booze it would be a lot more helpful to make a concerted effort to bring deprived areas out of poverty and give them as much to live for as the guys in Park West?

Aeres said...

Oh yes, sorry - I meant to mention...

There is an obvious 'flaw' in the argument that I've just given which goes something like 'would you therefore legalise class A drugs such as heroin, etc' under the assumption that it would be under the users personal freedom of choice whether or not to use it.

I'm not totally sure about this, but all things considered I think that I probably would. The main problem as far as I can see is the crime that is associated with it as users try to fund their habit - at least by taking it away from the 'underground' it will probably become more managable and there could be proper debate and education around it.

And that is why I'm not a politician! - I'd probably get locked up for lunacy :-) The theory does make sense though I think (at least on my planet anyway!)

ian holme said...

Maybe I too am being contentious, but I frequently fail to undestand the link between "deprivation" and life expectancy.

Smoking, drinking and obesity are the major players in reducing life expectancy, but hardly indicators of lack of income or deprivation.
Surely they are much more indicative of lifestyle choices?

Of course I would exclude the like of industrial diseases from any such argument.

We all prioritise where we spend what (little!) money we may have, surely that is something for the individual to decide upon?

miketually said...

While there's certainly an issue of personal choice in choosing whether/what to eat, drink, smoke or inject, at some point society (in the form on government) will set limits, in the form of guidance, taxation or legislation.

So, everyone can eat whatever they want, but are advised to eat 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day and to avoid foods high in fat. Over-16s can smoke tobacco in whatever quantity they like (although they're advised not to), but no one can smoke dope. Over-18s can drink as much as alcohol they like, provided they behave, but they're advised to drink less than 4 units per day. Non-medicinal use of certain drugs is completely banned.

These limits/prohibitions are fluid, however, and society occasionally changes some limits.

There's also an issue on how children are affected. Patterns of eating, drinking and exercise are influenced greatly in early life, so education plays a part in trying to move people towards the accepted norms.

I'm amazed at how many people claim to be unable to eat their 5-a-day...