16 July 2010
Islanders dying of cancer before the age of 65 and an increased number of suicides are concerns raised in “Our Island, Our Health”, the Medical Officer of Health’s annual report.
The report looks at the overall health picture in Jersey. It highlights achievements with childhood immunisations and screening programmes, the importance of active travel, and ongoing concerns about alcohol consumption and the fact that 1 in 5 Islanders still smoke.
“There are many issues of interest, some positive and some worrying, which have come to light,” said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Rosemary Geller, who recommends in the report that States departments work together to tackle these issues, in particular the creation of a new tobacco strategy to build on the 2003 strategy.
“Many of the modern challenges to the public’s health are caused by a wide range of inter-connected factors, and joined up problems require joined up solutions,” she said. “As an Island, we continue to face future challenges, as we try to plan for health needs in the years ahead. Helping people with chronic health problems to stay well through proactive care is a particular ongoing challenge.”
The report shows:
- 1 in 5 Islanders are dying before the age of 65 - mostly from a range of cancers, circulatory disease and liver disease
- men are more likely to die young than women
- the main causes of ill health are tobacco, untreated blood pressure, alcohol and poor diet
- young men (25-34 year-olds) are particularly prone to suicide
- most Islanders commute by car rather than on foot or by bus or bicycle
Speaking about the findings, Dr Geller said “I recommend that services and measures which deal with the causes of premature death in Jersey receive priority, particularly with a focus on reducing smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.”
Regarding the issue of suicide, she said “This is a sensitive problem and it’s important to stress that suicide is never a simple issue. The causes are often complex and successful interventions require partnership working among a range of professionals and agencies. In a recent study by Southampton University about suicide in Jersey, particular attention was drawn to the importance of diagnosing and treating those with untreated mental health problems and to reducing alcohol consumption for the population overall.”
Referring to the successful childhood immunisation programmes, Dr Geller said “The contribution made by vaccines within the past hundred years has been incredible, earning immunisation the accolade of being the most important public health intervention after clean water. In Jersey, immunisation has dramatically reduced the incidence of serious childhood diseases, hospitalisations and disabilities so that diseases such as diphtheria, that were once commonplace, are now rare.
“The current immunisation schedule offers children under 5 protection against 10 infectious diseases. In 2008, the primary vaccination coverage reached its highest rate for 13 years, with 97% of Jersey children being vaccinated.”
The recent advances in local screening tests are also highlighted in the report. “Screening tests mean that people can be diagnosed and treated earlier, thus giving them a better prognosis” explained Dr Geller. “I have urged further improvements for cervical and breast cancer screening programmes which need better computer systems in order to reach all the women who could benefit. There are some screening programmes which we don’t yet have in Jersey, such as screening people for bowel cancer, aortic aneurysms and cardiovascular disease.”