Our town is ‘fit and healthy’

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PEOPLE living in Stowmarket do more exercise than in other Suffolk towns, according to a health report which has been published.

The 2011 NHS annual public health report for Suffolk highlights Stowmarket’s ‘thriving’ leisure and sports facilities, which may account for the 22 per cent of people who exercise to the recommended level – three 40-minute sessions of physical activity a week.

Stowmarket people exercise more than those in Brandon, Ipswich, Sudbury and Lowestoft– but are equal to people living in Haverhill.

According to the report, 25 per cent of the Stowmarket population are obese, with 24 per cent smoking and 17 per cent binge drinking. Only 29 per cent of the population eat their ‘five a day’ of fruit and vegetables.

The report looks into factors which impact on the health and wellbeing of people living in different wards in Suffolk, considering deprivation, crime, education and employment, to build an overall picture for towns and the county as a whole. Each ward is then given a ranking from one to 175, with one representing the most deprived areas.

Stowmarket records positive economic and business results, described as ‘one of the fastest growing market towns in the country’ with £49.5 million of investment in developing the town.

The report says: “The town is bucking the national trend with one of the lowest percentages of empty retail premises and a growing twice weekly market.”

The town also sees a lower percentage of people on benefits than the Suffolk and national averages and also has less premature deaths. But the town is falling behind Suffolk and England with GCSE pass rates.

The report also highlights considerable differences between the three wards which make up the town.

While Stowmarket north has a higher average weekly household income and less people on benefits than Suffolk’s average, Stowmarket south has a lower average weekly income and more people on benefits. The north ward has a score of 132, but south is less than half that with 62.

Stowmarket central performs better than the county average for the local economy with high numbers of job vacancies, but also has a higher level of crime and antisocial behaviour.

n Suffolk bucks trend – Page 20.