People "fed up" of being lectured about lifestyles

Date: Tuesday 9th October 2018

LECTURING the public not to smoke and drink no longer works, a Cumbria health chief has said.

On Monday, Colin Cox, director of Cumbria County Council, said that putting pressure on people to change their lifestyles could have the reverse effect.

Mr Cox was updating Cumbria County Council’s health scrutiny committee at a meeting in Kendal.

“If it was about telling people what to do, all our health problems would be sorted out by now. Everyone has known for many, many years about the dangers of smoking and what they should be eating. Telling people what to do, doesn’t work, it’s about empowering people and giving them the power they need to make the right decision.”

Health officials are working up far-reaching plans to tackle the county’s major health challenges over the next decade.

But committee member Phil Dew (Con, Kirkby Stephen) said any push to “change behaviours” in people carried a danger of being “Orwellian”.

“It’s a bit Clockwork Orange to be trying to manipulate people’s behaviour,”

He said some people stopped visiting GPs because they were fed-up of being lectured about their lifestyles.

The “obsession” with diet and obesity could drive people towards eating disorders, Mr Dew told the meeting.

Mark Wilson (Lab, Ulverston) said his concern was tackling the high number of drug deaths in Barrow and Furness, and cutting the numbers of people killed in road traffic collisions.

Drugs are one of the largest causes of death and I have also heard that road traffic deaths have increased over the last year,” said Mr Wilson.

Mr Cox said a “huge amount of work" was being done in Barrow and Carlisle to support a wide range of people.

Mr Cox appeared at the committee to update councillors on the progress of the county’s new health and wellbeing strategy for 2019-29.

He said the council is close to finalising the strategy, which will go out for a three-month public consultation, before being unveiled in March.

Vivienne Rees (Lib Dem, Ambleside and Grasmere) urged health officials to ensure the consultation reached the county’s offline community.

“There are people who are not online and have no access to the world wide web, and a large tranche of them don’t want to be online. It is very important any consultation considers these people,” said Mrs Rees.

David Blacklock, chief executive officer of patient champion Healthwatch Cumbria, said no consultation could reach every “fell top” but those who were offline needed to be considered.

Peter Rooney, chief executive of the North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said Cumbria had a “super ageing” population.

The issue was that people were living longer but in poorer health.

The aim was that they by leading healthier lifestyles they could reach old age before a short period of illness and then their death.

“In the end, given the choice, that’s probably what most of us would prefer,” said Mr Rooney.