I recently went to the launch of a new report on education and skills in Doncaster, called One Doncaster.
It contains a number of recommendations on how the Borough can better equip its people and businesses for the changing times that face us.
Now you might think that’s an unusual event for a doctor to attend. Why would it be of any interest to the NHS?
Well, through my role as Chair of NHS Doncaster CCG I’m also a member of Team Doncaster, which is a strategic partnership of senior people who represent key organisations from the local public, private and voluntary community sectors.
It’s an important partnership because what happens in Doncaster, from where people work, to where they live, to how they spend their time and their social habits, all have an impact on our health.
Good, or bad, health is fundamentally linked to several factors which are called the wider determinants of health.
Age, sex and hereditary factors all contribute to our health but are really out of our control. Individual lifestyle choices, such as whether we smoke, the amount of alcohol we drink, how healthy our diet is and how much exercise we take is within our control and also contributes to our health.
Other factors exist, which although they are generally beyond our control, can be improved on with support from organisations like Doncaster Council, Doncaster College and our local chamber of commerce.
Having a high quality education enables Doncaster people to maximise opportunities. Educational attainment can determine future employment and income as well as lowering the risk of alcohol and drug misuse and teenage pregnancy.
Education has traditionally been an important route out of poverty. Qualifications improve our chances of getting a job, earning money and then increasing our standard of living. This in turn enables us to buy the essentials for good health – including nutritious food, nice housing and a good, safe working environment.
The environment in which people live also contributes to the quality of life and health. People living in areas with safe water supplies, clean air, a healthy working environment and comfortable housing are more likely to be in good health than those who live in cold, damp, conditions for example.
Our social environment is also important. Having support from family, friends and the local community reduces the risk of becoming socially isolated and lonely. It contributes to good mental wellbeing and by doing so, improves overall health.
Agricultural policies affect the quality, price and availability of food, all of which are important for public health.
So, as you can see, the NHS is just one important piece of a local jigsaw that creates the picture of health of Doncaster people. By Team Doncaster organisations working closely together we can utilise collective assets, and combined approach, to improve the general health of the town.