SMOKING, alcohol and a lack of exercise are the biggest contributors to death in Wigan, health bosses have claimed. 

Rachael Musgrave, director of public health for the borough, told the Health and Wellbeing Board that these factors were the leading cause for mortality. She went on to explain that deprivation and health inequalities in the area that have been going on for generations need to be fixed in order to break this cycle.

According to the latest data, the leading causes of death in Wigan for 2021 were Covid-19, dementia, lung cancer, Chronic Ischemic Heart Disease and Acute Myocardial Infarction – all impacted by smoking, drinking and physical inactivity.

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Need to 'change the way we live'

The latest meeting at the town hall heard that more efforts to improve health should focus on the conditions that create good health alongside the provision of high quality and accessible services.

The latest strategy put forward and approved by the board incorporates health into every aspect of residents’ lives. Ms Musgrave explained that the 10-year plan takes time because there have been generations of underlying problems in health that have gone unnoticed. 

The director of public health, putting the huge plan into simple terms, said: “This will be about changing our culture and the way that we live.”

She went on to quote the strategy that was fully endorsed by the board, which read: “Living and working in a place that you are proud of and that makes you feel happy and safe is vital for creating health.

“Having a good home that keeps you safe and warm and feeling part of a supportive and kind community is an essential building block for health and wellbeing. To make it easy for people to control their health and to stay well, health creation will be designed into our neighbourhoods from the outset and a fundamental part of decision making around the shape and nature of our places and how we deliver services.” 

Higher than average smokers across borough

The chamber heard how Wigan has a higher than average number of smokers (14.7 per cent) and alcohol-related hospital admissions (560 admissions per 100,000 adults).

In addition to that, around seven in ten adults are overweight or living with obesity in Wigan (71.3 per cent, in 2021/22), which is significantly higher than the England average (63.8 per cent).

With one third of adults in the borough living in the top 20 per cent deprived areas nationally, health bosses believe they need to tackle health issues at the root cause. Depending on where you live in Wigan, your life expectancy can change by eight years, the town hall heard.

To change this narrative, the council alongside other partners in the area want to invest into children’s services and promote healthy living from earlier ages and into all aspects of life. That support can range from promoting active travel to upskilling people in their livelihoods. 

Coun Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader of the council, said: “All these things impact children and young people. The first 1,000 days are the most important to set the track for the rest of their lives. 

“We need to improve our position for them because we will still have 60+ year olds in 60 years time having poor health because we’ve not focussed on them.”

By 2034, health bosses hope that the number of years people live in good health, and the gap between the best and worse outcomes in health, has improved, and more people feel healthier and happier, achieving their goals and are in control of their health and wellbeing.