Expected years of life in good health in Shetland are significantly above the Scottish average, according to statistics heard at a board meeting of NHS Shetland heard this week.
For women life expectancy is 81.8 years and for men 76.2 years, compared with 80.1 and 75.4 respectively in Scotland.
Reporting to the board, health promotions manager Elizabeth Robinson said Shetland also has the highest rate of breastfeeding in Scotland, with the percentage of babies exclusively breastfed at six to eight weeks in the isles standing at 39.5 per cent in June. Although this is above the national target it is behind the locally-set target of 58 per cent, which NHS Shetland hopes to achieve by March.
The health board has an action plan to ensure women get support to breastfeed, and to that end a number of women across Shetland have been trained as breastfeeding peer supporters.
Shetland also has fewer deaths from coronary heart disease in under 75-year-olds than the Scottish average, at 32.3 per 100,000 population (Scotland is 56.0).
Although Shetland is performing well in these areas, Ms Robinson asked: “Should we be more ambitious?”
Achieving a healthy weight in children remains a “challenge”, she said, especially in how to carry out “interventions” without stigmatising a particular child.
A “whole school” programme with the Active Schools Team has now started, she said – this does not single anyone out and involves all the children and their families being aware of the need for physical activity and healthy eating.
Alcohol is another challenge, Ms Robinson said. Alcohol brief interventions, which are “short, evidence-based, structured conversations” with people deemed to have an alcohol problem are being carried out by many health professionals, but training in the conversations could be extended, she said, to professions such as podiatrists and even housing support workers.
NHS Shetland is committed to reducing the suicide rate and 50 per cent of front-line medical staff have now been trained in suicide prevention training programmes. This has been delivered in partnership with the charity Mind Your Head.
In addition, under the auspices of the Shetland Mental Health Partnership, a multi-agency group has been set up to gain detailed information about all cases of suicide, especially in those who have not been in contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months.
The aim is to identify trends that could be used to prevent suicides.