New director of Public Health in Portsmouth wants to '˜design healthier city'

A HEALTHIER city where people eat better, smoke less and take more exercise.

Tuesday, 16th May 2017, 7:10 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th May 2017, 2:26 pm
Portsmouth and Southampton/s new director of public health, Jason Horsley Picture: Habibur Rahman. PPP-170515-161321006

That’s the vision of the new director of public health for Portsmouth.

Dr Jason Horsley has unveiled his plans to make the city healthier.

He says tackling smoking, fitness and what the public are eating are his main focus.

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Since starting his role, which also covers Southampton, Dr Horsley has looked at some of the biggest health problems facing the city’s residents.

Speaking to The News, he said: ‘I’m not surprised by a lot of the health issues in Portsmouth but we can design a healthier city.

‘We need to encourage the population to ask themselves – is this going to make me healthier?

‘Smoking is still the biggest cause of people dying young. Continuing to work with smokers is important and we are also working with other organisations.

‘We are trying to encourage the hospitals in the city to go smoke-free but we are also looking at the reasons people may start smoking in the first place.

‘The second biggest thing is physical inactivity.

‘Rather than obesity, it’s people who aren’t getting much physical activity at all. We know that has a real effect on health and wellbeing.

‘To improve this, we have been speaking to the transport and planning teams at Portsmouth City Council to see how we can promote active transport like walking and cycling.

‘There is no major place on Portsea Island that you cannot get to within 15 minutes of walking and cycling.

‘Linked to that, is what we are putting into our bodies.

‘It is about ensuring we eat healthy and we have the environments surrounding us to enable us to have a good diet.’

Dr Horsley said these three factors could contribute to being unhealthier later in life. This in turn leads to pressure on NHS services in the area.

As previously reported in The News, the number of smokers in Portsmouth is still higher than the national average. According to figures from Public Health England 19.8 per cent of people smoke compared 16.9 per cent nationally.

Other figures also showed a quarter of 35 to 64-year-olds were obese, compared to 11 per cent of 16 to 34-year-olds.

To sort the problems, he said public health had to help people change their behaviours.

He added: ‘There are three different environments which have an impact on behaviours.

‘There is the physical environment, so supermarkets selling cheap unhealthy food, and inadequate cycling lanes, but also the social environment.

‘That is the norms in society so what we do that other people accept.

‘The smoking ban was an example of that. When it came in, people couldn’t smoke indoors and although it was legislation, it gave non-smokers the chance to show it was unacceptable and not fair.

‘The third environment is legislation. Some people willingly break the law if it’s within social norms but we need those laws to help with alcohol outlets selling cheap alcohol and illicit tobacco being on the streets.’

Dr Horsley said part of the role at Public Health, which is funded by the councils in Portsmouth and Southampton, was helping with health inequalities through its schemes.

Some were population-wide while others were targeted as specific demographic groups.

‘We are working at a time when we need to do more but with less money,’ he said.

‘One of the hardest things we need to decide is if we will get better results helping the whole city’s population with a health issue or targeted those worse off.

‘Sometimes, it is the well-off people who benefit more from the wider schemes which then broadens the health inequalities even more.’

Dr Horsley took over the role of director in January following the resignation of Janet Maxwell last summer. She was in the role for two years.