Health in Coastal Communities

The BBC has reported on the latest annual report by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty into the health of coastal communities

It states that :

A national strategy is needed to tackle poor health and lower life expectancy in seaside towns, a report from England's chief medical officer says.

Chris Whitty says these places might have natural beauty but suffer from high rates of serious illnesses.

Coastal towns have been "overlooked by governments" and had their "ill-health hidden", said Prof Whitty.

The report calls for cross-government action to address overlapping issues such as bad housing and poor health.

(Full BBC article available here)

The report summary highlights issues that are similar to those in rural areas:
There are many reasons for poor health outcomes in coastal communities. The pleasant environment attracts older, retired citizens to settle, who inevitably have more and increasing health problems. An oversupply of guest housing has led to Houses of Multiple Occupation which lead to concentrations of deprivation and ill health. The sea is a benefit but also a barrier: attracting NHS and social care staff to peripheral areas is harder, catchment areas for health services are artificially foreshortened and transport is often limited, in turn limiting job opportunities. Many coastal communities were created around a single industry such as previous versions of tourism, or fishing, or port work that have since moved on, meaning work can often be scarce or seasonal

The report has three key recommendations:

  1. Given the health and wellbeing challenges of coastal communities have more in common with one another than inland neighbours, there should be a national strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of coastal communities. This must be cross-government as many of the key drivers and levers such as housing, environment, education, employment, economic drivers and transport are wider than health.
  2. The current mismatch between health and social care worker deployment and disease prevalence in coastal areas needs to be addressed. This requires action by HEE and NHSE/I.
  3. The paucity of granular data and actionable research into the health needs of coastal communities is striking. Improving this will assist the formulation of policies to improve the health of coastal communities. Local authorities, ONS and NHSE/I need to make access to more granular data available. Research funders, including NIHR and UKRI, need to provide incentives for research aimed specifically at improving coastal community health.

The report uses sparse rural areas such as West Somerset and Lincolnshire as case studies in the report.

It echoes many of the issues highlighted by the Rural Services Network about issues surrounding access to health services in rural areas including difficulties in recruiting a skilled workforce.

The RSN has set out a number of asks of Government in this area in the Revitalising Rural campaign and these can be found at this link

The RSN will be exploring the report in more detail to see where the information and recommendations are relevant for rural communities as a whole


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