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Healthy Hearts in the West

Wednesday 18th of January 2012

A major strategy aimed at improving heart health in the west of the city, is being launched today (January 18) by the West Belfast Partnership Board, just in time for New Year’s resolutions!

‘Healthy Hearts in the West’ is a Cardiovascular Strategy for West Belfast and is funded by the Public Health Agency, Belfast Local Commissioning Group and Belfast Health Development Unit. It aims to raise awareness, of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and involve people in a range of healthy activities. A major focus of ‘Healthy Hearts in the West’ will be on promoting prevention of CVD.

Levels of CVD including heart disease and stroke are higher in West Belfast1, an area of severe socioeconomic deprivation, than most of the North of Ireland causing disability and premature mortality.

Men living in the least deprived areas in the North of Ireland live on average almost eight years longer than men in the most deprived areas, for women this gap is five years2. Statistics also show that over 11,000 people registered with a GP in West Belfast have high blood pressure3 which is one of the main risk factors for CVD.

The innovative new strategy has been developed as a result of a partnership between the West Belfast Partnership Board (WBPB), Neighbourhood Renewal Partnerships and partners including the local community, the Public Health Agency (PHA), Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Belfast City Council, Belfast Health Development Unit, the GAA, Ulster Chemists Association and Belfast Local Commissioning Group.

The vision behind ‘Healthy Hearts in the West’ is that people living in West Belfast experience heart health equivalent to the best in the North of Ireland.
Rowan Davison Community Planning Officer Health with the WBPB said:

“Coronary and other forms of heart disease are one of the largest killers and they affect areas of disadvantage to a much greater extent than more affluent areas both in terms of death and chronic ill health. Through the ‘Healthy Hearts’ initiative we hope to make people aware of the causes of heart disease and most importantly what individuals families and communities can do to improve heart health.”

‘Healthy Hearts in the West’ has a number of objectives including strengthening partnerships between statutory, voluntary and private sectors to improve heart health, building on existing infrastructure such as Neighbourhood Renewal and Healthy Living Centres. It also aims to increase awareness of CVD risk factors and how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Explaining the importance of this work, Séamus Mullen, Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement (Belfast), PHA, said: “The Public Health Agency was set up to promote and enhance the factors that influence good health and wellbeing and to reduce the avoidable and unjust differences in health experienced by the best and the worst-off in our society.

“‘Healthy Hearts in the West’ has been developed in partnership with the community, voluntary and statutory sectors to tackle health inequalities in West Belfast. Long-term, it aims to reduce the high incidence of cardiovascular disease, by helping local people to make healthy choices and improve their health.”

A programme of activities to tackle the underlying causes of Cardiovascular Disease will be delivered across the four Neighbourhood Renewal areas: Lenadoon Suffolk, Andersonstown, Upper Springfield Whiterock and Greater Falls. The programme will focus on weight management, healthy eating, physical activity and raising awareness of risks associated with smoking and high alcohol consumption.

The strategy will also involve ten West Belfast pharmacies who will offer cardiovascular screening for 400 people. Pharmacies will also offer a weight management programme for 200 people across the west of the city.
Work will also be undertaken to promote cardiovascular rehabilitation.
For further information on ‘Healthy Hearts in the West’, contact Rowan Davison on 028 9080 9202.

The launch takes place at the Falls Leisure Centre, Falls Road at 9.30am. During the launch local schoolchildren will be participating in physical activity and health checks will also be available for adults.

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