A snapshot of what it’s like to grow up in Bolton features in this year’s Public Health annual report.
The document focuses on the importance of prioritising the health and wellbeing of the borough’s young people now, in order to improve their long term future.
With an increasing population, the council and its partners face a challenge in ensuring children have the best start in life. But they have made considerable steps towards making a difference and acknowledge that there is more work to be done to improve services further.
The report, written by former Director of Public Health Wendy Meredith, highlights the work the council has done to address the ‘school readiness’ of the town’s under five population by investing in early years provision.
She states that preparing children for when they start school begins at birth, and has a strong impact on future educational attainment and life chances.
By integrating services and working closely with parents, the council’s aim is to identify any potential issues with child development or health early on, thus preventing problems from developing further.
Another positive step that features in the report is the redesign and recent commissioning of a health service for children aged five to 19.
Previously, services like school nursing, adolescent health, oral health and children’s weight management were delivered as individual services. However, they have now been brought together as one service and the council has commissioned Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to deliver this in the borough, with the aim of ensuring that children are assessed, supported and given extra help where necessary.
As part of research for the report, the council undertook a survey with more than 6,000 school children and the results will be used to help shape future services for young people.
Positively, 75 per cent of Year 8 girls said they intended to apply for university and 73 per cent of secondary pupils enjoyed physical activity ‘a lot’ or ‘quite a lot’. However, 28 per cent of secondary school students admitted to having medium to low self-esteem and 18 per cent of younger pupils said they’d received an online chat message that scared or upset them.
Deputy Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: “Since Public Health responsibilities transferred to the council we have been working hard to address the health needs of the borough’s population. Bolton has a particular set of challenges due to its location and demography and we have a large task ahead.
“However, we have made significant improvements in certain areas and have a long term strategy to help residents improve their health outcomes. Our population is increasing and people will live longer, so by putting things in place to help prevent ill-health at an early stage this will ultimately reduce demand on resources and services in the future.”
Bolton Council’s Director of Public Health, David Herne, added: “This year’s annual report was compiled by my predecessor, Wendy Meredith, who has now taken up a Greater Manchester Public Health role. I would like to thank her for her hard work in producing the report, which serves as a useful reference for public health professionals working in Bolton.
“There are almost 70,000 children and young people under the age of 18 currently living in Bolton, and by 2021 this figure will have risen considerably. This report highlights the need to invest in specific services with the aim of improving their future outcomes.”
The report was considered by Cllr Thomas at her Executive Cabinet meeting on December 14 and is available to view on the Bolton's Health Matters website.