People need help to make right lifestyle choices

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As statistics go, they’re pretty gloomy ones. Portsmouth is ranked 104 out of 150 areas by local authority for early deaths under the age of 75. And out of similar-sized authorities, it’s 13th worst out of 15.

The Longer Lives data reveals that the city is ranked 116th for early deaths from cancer, 104th for those from heart disease and stroke, 99th for lung disease and 106th for liver disease.

The message from all of this is that lifestyle must play a significant part. Put simply, too many people are contributing to their own premature demise by smoking, drinking and eating too much.

But if there was a simple answer, surely it would have been used by now to tackle what is a clearly a big health problem.

The truth is that this is a lot more complex than simply telling people to stop doing things that are harmful.

Dr Andrew Mortimore, the director for public health in Portsmouth, is quite right when he says that issues such as poverty, housing, education and employment all need to be addressed if we are to cut the numbers of premature deaths.

Because in many cases, it is people’s circumstances that contribute to harmful lifestyles.

We agree that this holistic approach is the best way to fully understand why people adversely affect their health by smoking, drinking too much and becoming obese.

Dr Mortimore adds: ‘Public health being part of the council puts us in the best position to look at health from a broader perspective and make real changes that will have an impact on people’s future.’

It’s encouraging to hear him talk about efforts to improve the living standards of the poor in our society and taking steps to try to reduce income inequality, because these are important factors in people’s overall health.

A programme of health checks for 40-74-year-olds, with screening particularly targeted at residents living in areas of high need, is also a good idea. The more help people get to make the right lifestyle choices, the better.