People living and working in the East of England can expect to see greater opportunities for living a longer and healthier life - particularly those whose prospects for good health may until now have been limited.The first Regional Health Strategy for the East of England will be launched today (23rd May, 2006) by the Minister of State for Public Health, Caroline Flint MP, at the Robinson Executive College, Wyboston, Bedfordshire. It provides a model for improving the health of the population, and for seriously challenging those factors and circumstances that have led to inequalities in health across the East of England.

‘Healthy Futures', developed by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and the East of England Public Health Group (EEPHG), aims to ensure that those sections of the population experiencing poorer health than their counterparts elsewhere get the chance to improve their health. Although the health of the people in the East of England is better than the national average, the Regional Health Strategy provides a focus to identify and reduce the health inequalities that exist within the region. For example, the life expectancy of boys born today in Great Yarmouth is four years lower than boys born in South Cambridgeshire.

In driving the Strategy forward, the focus will be on lifestyle factors such as healthy eating, physical activity and the benefits of giving up smoking. Environmental factors such as housing, neighbourhood design, education and employment will also be taken into account.

Minister of State for Public Health, Caroline Flint MP said:

"Health is about a lot more than when you are sick. I am delighted to launch the East of England's Health Strategy, which recognises the importance of supporting people to make healthier choices, whilst at the same time encourages action on those wider issues that affect our health, such as education, employment and the design of communities. I welcome working closer with partners who understand that health is important for the economy as well as communities and individuals."

Chair of EERA's Health and Social Inclusion Panel, Ermal Kirby said:

"The Regional Health Strategy's focus on how we live shows that we all have a role to play in improving people's health. This Strategy should be of interest and use to anyone working in local communities across the East of England."

A five year Regional Action Plan has been developed to co-ordinate regional activity and deliver the Strategy's objectives.

The Regional Director of Public Health, Dr Gina Radford, said:

"This Strategy is the first of its kind for the Region. I am grateful for the huge involvement of organisations from across the East of England in putting this together and I look forward to working with them to meet the challenge set out in Healthy Futures."

More than 90 representatives from local authorities, health authorities and voluntary organisations from across the East of England are attending the launch of the Regional Health Strategy. Delegates have been invited to attend a series of workshops running throughout the day which have been organised to help them to use the Strategy to support their work.

In the morning, Caroline Flint MP will also be visiting the ‘Hunts for Food' project in Huntingdon for a cook and eat session as a part of a project to promote healthy eating amongst children living in deprived areas (see Notes for Editors). The scheme is typical of the kind of activity flowing from ‘Healthy Futures'.