Peterborough's health: an expert view


Photo: Pixabay

Before I delve into whether or not I think Peterborough is unhealthy (as reported in Peterborough Matters yesterday), we should look at some of the latest figures. just recently released their research on the UK’s healthiest and unhealthiest high streets which frankly makes dismal reading for Peterborough. The highest scoring and healthiest city in the UK were, York (471 points), whereas the lowest scoring city was Peterborough with -104. That is a staggering 575-point difference between the two cities!

Furthermore, according to the 2018/19 Peterborough Annual Public Health Report (PAPHR), almost 100,000 people are reported to have high blood pressure. That is an increase of just over 10,000 people since the 2013/14 report. Two of the key factors resulting in high blood pressure are; stress and being overweight.

Exercise has long been proven to help reduce both of these health problems.

What makes the future look bleak for Peterborough (if changes aren’t made soon) is the increasing number of children who are overweight or obese. The PAPHR shows that levels of overweight and obese children in Peterborough have stayed somewhat steady at reception age. However, there is an increasing trend for children in year 6 to be significantly above the national average for two of the past three years.

Scarily, figures from the 2018 report show that adults in Peterborough are less likely to eat five fruit and vegetables a day and are more likely to be overweight or obese than the national average.

The percentage of adults with type 2 diabetes (one of the most common diseases related to being overweight) in Peterborough is 7%, whereas the national average is 6.8%.

Reading the above makes it quite conclusive as to whether or not Peterborough is healthy, and the answer is, no it is not.

Do you think the city centre lends itself to fitness?

The embarrassingly low score for Peterborough was due to the lack of green spaces near the high street and below-average number of gyms. 150 points were deducted for the number of fast-food takeaways available to citizens.

Two of the main green spaces Peterborough has to offer are the Embankment and Central Park. Other than those two, within the city centre, you are stuck for anywhere else to go (of a good size). There really isn’t enough green space within the centre of Peterborough for the volume of citizens we have.

Just look at Cambridge, a vast abundance of green spaces which makes for a pleasant and enjoyable visit.

A quick Google search and you will find only 3 gyms within the city centre itself and around 20 or so gyms in the whole of Peterborough. Given that Peterborough’s population is around 203,000, with only 20 gyms in the area that works out at 1 gym per 10,150 people.

I’d hate to be a member of a gym with that many members!

A huge array of fast food places is not what Peterborough needs if we are to move forward and become a healthier city. There is a really scarce number of healthy restaurants, takeaways and food shops which makes it difficult for a healthconscious person to get a nutritional meal.

The way the city centre is currently, made us destined to be crowned the unhealthiest city in the UK.

What would you like to see altered?

The current status of Peterborough is not something that can be fixed overnight, but we need all ears to listen and all bodies to work together.

First and foremost, I would love to see a reduction in fast food takeaways and chain restaurants that, whilst they make for a nice treat, should not be dominating our high streets.

Instead, let's support independent businesses who can offer us healthier alternatives and restaurants that aren’t all chains. Going out for a meal in
Peterborough just isn’t that appealing these days, however, a quick trip up to Stamford and you are overwhelmed by independent restaurants, bars and cafe’s that all offer something unique. That is what Peterborough needs!

Looking at the figures for obesity in children is honestly terrifying. What can we do? Well, first and foremost kids can only eat what is put in front of them by their parents or guardians, so educating families on healthier habits like more nutritional meals and being active should make a significant dent in the stats.

One of the easiest ways to do this could be running free classes, workshops, posting leaflets/booklets all about being healthier. So many people who come to me have their minds tangled in information or are simply clueless about what to do and eat, we have to support our citizens in getting active and healthy.

Schools can encourage being active with more P.E. lessons, active trips and opportunities to learn about being healthy.

With less than average amount of gyms, we should really be looking at making gyms and leisure centres more readily available and affordable. If we were able to offer grants that could allow gyms to run free classes for children which in turn means they get a head start in living a healthy life, I would say that is inarguably beneficial.

Making Peterborough healthy comes down to a few key things:

  1.  Reduce the number of fast-food takeaways.

  2.  Increase green spaces to relax and be active.

  3.  Increase number of gyms and leisure centres making exercise more readily available.

  4.  Educate Families and children on the importance of healthy living and being active.

  5.  Increase number of healthy restaurants/takeaways/cafes and support them

Henry Godfree is a Peterborough-based sports therapist, personal trainer and nutritionist working at Outlift Muscle & Fitness