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Norfolk men, aged 40 to 75, to be targeted in new drive to improve health

PUBLISHED: 23:25 05 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:49 06 September 2018

The importance of getting blood pressure checked will form part of the new campaign aimed at men aged 40 to 75. Pic: Press Association

The importance of getting blood pressure checked will form part of the new campaign aimed at men aged 40 to 75. Pic: Press Association

A new campaign, spearheaded by a “well-known” figure with links to Norfolk, is to be launched to try to improve the health of men aged 40 to 75.

County councillor and West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.County councillor and West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

Men in that age group are to be targeted in the public health campaign amid concerns over their mental health, the rate of suicide, high blood pressure, smoking, drinking, diabetes and prevalence of cancer.

Norfolk County Council is to launch a 10-month campaign later this month, which will hone in on particular issues affecting that age group each month.

Public health bosses hope that will help them to reach a group which can, traditionally, be reluctant to consider health issues and to change their behaviour.

The county council hopes one way to convince the age group to consider the issues is by using what they call an ‘influencer’ - a local, well-respected person who will be the face of the campaign.

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYDr Louise Smith, director of public health at Norfolk County Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The identity of that person is being kept under wraps at the moment, but the council believes they will be able to connect with people in a way that the council cannot.

The campaign’s main focuses will be over areas in which Norfolk is not performing as well as it could, chiefly:

- Blood pressure

- Smoking

Diabetes can be a consequence of poor diet. Pic: Peter Byrne/PA WireDiabetes can be a consequence of poor diet. Pic: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

- Exercise and diet

- Cancer awareness

- Suicide and mental health

Recent statistics published by the Office for National Statistics showed that male suicide has fallen to its lowest level since records began at the start of the 1980s.

Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans chief executive. Pic: Steve Argent.Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans chief executive. Pic: Steve Argent.

There were 4,382 suicides by men last year, a rate of 15.5 deaths per 100,000. The highest rate in the 36-year period was in 1988, when there were 21.4 deaths per 100,000 members of the population.

Across all age groups, there were 10.6 suicides per 100,000 members of the public in Norfolk and 15.1 suicides per 100,000 members of the population in Norwich between 2015 and 2017 - both above the national average and putting Norwich in the 10 areas with the highest rates.

Nationally, men aged 45 to 49 were the age group with the highest suicide rate last year - 24.8 deaths per 100,000 and health bosses want to prevent such deaths in Norfolk.

Ruth Sutherland, chief executive of the Samaritans, said: “Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable.

“And when someone takes their own life the result is absolute devastation for those left behind.

“It’s encouraging to see the reduction in male suicide.

“We believe that the focus of suicide prevention in recent years to tackle the higher rates in men has contributed to this.

“Added to this, reducing stigma around men’s mental health and encouraging men to open up and ask for help when they are struggling has been beneficial.”

It is that sort of encouragement for people to seek help and support which the campaign aims to foster - along with getting men to think more about changing their lifestyles to prevent long-term health conditions.

Martin Seymour, public health consultant at the county council, said: “The campaign will increase awareness of the steps men can take to look after their physical and mental health and other support mechanisms available to men in this age group.”

Dr Louise Smith, director of public health, said it was hoped the campaign would get more men to take part in NHS Health Checks, to pick up the risk of health problems and help men to change their lifestyles.

Brian Long, county councillor and leader of West Norfolk Council, backed the campaign - and said he was an example 
of the type of man who needed to be reached.

He said: “Being in that 40 to 75 age group, I know it’s a very hard to reach demographic.

“We tend not to notice if something is wrong and that we shouldn’t bother with the doctors, but leave that to the people who are ill.

“I know from experience, because I wouldn’t have gone to the doctors if my wife hadn’t pressured me to when I had a bit of a headache.

“It turned out my blood pressure was very high.”

- If you are struggling to cope, call Samaritans free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

Samaritans is available round the clock, every day of the year.

The EDP has, through our Mental Health Watch campaign, aimed to reduce the stigma around mental health issues, 
raise awareness and campaign for improved services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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