This last weekend, while I was at a conference, I was encouraged to look at the statistics of the demography of the area my business, Kirby’s Personal Training and Fitness Port Talbot, is in. Statistics from the census etc, give us a great insight in to lots of different things in the area where we live and they are free to everyone.
I didn’t start looking for health statistics, I was looking at other things which help the business but I was intrigued to find out what is the state of health of my county. I discovered the Welsh Health Survey that Welsh Government undertake every year. They have a wealth of information and statistics on their website.
What I discovered about my county has genuinely shocked me. Please note: that these statistics are taken from approximately 1500 households that are asked to join in the survey and an average of 80% of those households participated.
Between 2003 and 2013, the percentage of the Neath Port Talbot population included in the survey, that is classed as overweight or obese was increased from 56% to 61+%, topping over 63% in 2010/2011.
Up until 2011, there appears to be an upward trend in people reporting being overweight, and a slight downward trend occurs after this point, although I cannot find any emperical evidence as why that downward trend has occurred and on the face of it, it would appear a good sign.
However on the flip side the percentage of people who were reported to obese in this survey (although the data for a separate ‘obese’ column did not get included in the survey until 2005/2006), shows that the trend in those clinically viewed as obese shows a worrying upward trend post 2010.
The general trend in activity appears to have not changed much over the course of the ten year period. However, I noticed that the definition for this field not only included being active for 30 mins every day for 5 days of the week, but also encouraged those who worked in a job that would also meet these guidelines to include those in the figure. It is my guess that the actually activity of those surveyed is less than recorded.
Again looking at the percentage recorded with diabetes, and comparing it to the percentage of those surveyed on their consumption of fruit and vegetables (again being in line with government guidelines of 5 or more portions per day), a correlation between the drop in fruit/veg consumption and the slow increase in diabetes, cannot be taken as purely coincidental.
Add these results to the those of the increase in obesity and the seemingly steady number of percentage of people reaching the recommended guidelines for activity, it doesn’t paint a very healthy picture. The Survey added a new field in it’s findings from 2009 onwards, ‘General Health: Fair to poor’ which saw a steady 25+% figure year on year.
These statistics are frightening, but the issues are reversible for the most part. With some simple changes to eating habits and extra activity, these numbers could fall exponentially over the next year and beyond. This county has a wealth of outdoor areas that can be used for walking, and other activities. We live in an area with acres of beautiful forestry, and golden beaches – we are not limited by concrete and lack of open space, even if we are the most densely populated county in Wales.
Many of the illnesses that have been added to the statistics in the survey are reversible and manageable through good healthy practices. We need to go back to basics, review the government guidelines on healthy eating, review the minimum for activity and start to put some preventative measures in place for future generations…while we try and stem the tide of the epidemic that we currently face. It is my renewed mission to get that information to people in this county and show how easily they can stop being an unhealthy statistic in a government file. I want to share with my county the gift of good health. And it is a gift, that we have an amazing habit of squandering. I’ve done it myself, and if I could tell my 20 year old self that I would waste my 20s and be fighting to get in shape through much of my 30s, that would be a blessing.
So over the next few months, I am going to be planning a strategy to get this county healthier. I’m still in the early planning stages, but that 59% figure has got me fired up. I want to help my townsfolk see the potential they have, and that by making simple changes to things they have control over, how that in turn will impact other things in their life that they may have felt were unchangeable.
Watch this space……