TRAINING school children in Emergency Life Support skills can mean the difference between life and death.
That was the message from Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride today as he launched his annual report at St. Therese of Lisieux Primary School in Belfast.
Dr McBride said: “The British Heart Foundation has said that we could fill our streets with life-savers if we just make sure every young person leaves school with the skills to make a difference in a medical emergency. This BHF NI Heart Start School is one of many that is giving its pupils the best possible chance at saving a life if they find themselves in a situation where someone requires CPR to survive until they get to a hospital.”
In his report, the CMO also acknowledged the contribution to training in ELS skills made by other voluntary organisations including the Red Cross, St John Ambulance and ABC for Life. In addition, he emphasises the importance of the development of a regional community resuscitation strategy for Northern Ireland. He said: “As it stands, too few people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive to be discharged from hospital. Early resuscitation is crucial to survival. It is therefore vital that as many of the public as possible are trained in Emergency Life Support skills.”
Writing in his report, Dr McBride said that the health of the Northern Ireland public has been improving over time and people are living longer than before but highlighted the gap in health status and life expectancy between the most and least advantaged in our society. He said: “Men living in the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland can expect to die an average 12 years earlier, and women eight years earlier, than their counterparts living in the least deprived areas. This is simply unacceptable.”
The new public health framework which will be published later this year, seeks to improve health and reduce these health inequalities. Dr McBride said: “Everyone in society has a role in improving health and wellbeing. We need coherence and cooperation across government as well as working in partnership with other organisations at regional and local level.”
The report highlights a number of public health challenges in Northern Ireland, including obesity, alcohol misuse and smoking. Dr Mc Bride said: “I remain concerned about many lifestyle factors and their impact on our health.
“Obesity is undoubtedly the most significant public health issue confronting our generation. Levels continue to increase and this in turn is contributing to the increase in people with diabetes, heart disease and cancer. There are now over 75,000 people with diabetes – almost twice as many as 10 years ago. We need to support people in making healthy choices and ensure that taking a healthy approach begins as early in life as possible.
“Alcohol misuse is also still a major for concern resulting in almost 300 deaths and 8,000 admissions to hospital a year. It is important that we take action to address the misuse of alcohol including minimum unit pricing and early intervention.”
Smoking prevalence has remained static at around 24 or 25% of the population for the past four years. Further tobacco control measures including banning display of tobacco products were introduced in 2012. Dr McBride said: “We need to further de-normalise smoking and prevent young people from taking up the smoking habit.”
The CMO also said that suicide remains one of the biggest social challenges we face, particularly against a backdrop of increasing economic hardship and high levels of deprivation.
Other key areas covered in the annual report include:
* The introduction of HPV testing to the cervical screening programme
* Rural health initiatives
* Whooping cough
* The introduction of screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm for men aged 65
* Quality of healthcare
A copy of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report and advice on many of the areas covered in the report can be found at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/