By Christian Barnett – Local Democracy Reporter

The county council’s public health chief has called for a complete overhaul of how bad health in Worcestershire is tackled.

In her annual report on the state of the county’s health and wellbeing, director of Public Health Frances Howie said “systemic” changes were needed to what is currently a “challenging and fragmented” system and a greater investment in prevention was required to challenge some of Worcestershire’s biggest health problems and inequalities and giving people the chance to lead a healthier life.

She said: “We need to understand a new approach is needed, we need to think differently about it and we need to make a commitment to moving forward with a different lens.”

Dr Howie stressed the importance of creating ‘healthy places’ – which includes schools and workplaces – as well as looking at whether approving planning applications and granting licenses will be detrimental to the county’s health.

Dr Howie told the county council’s health and wellbeing board on Tuesday there was a “clear need” for integrating how information and advice is available to the county so everyone can “take ownership” of their own health, the health of their family and the health of the rest of the community.

She said: “We have got millions of places to go for information but what we do need is a more systematic, structured approach.”

Dr Anthony Kelly, chairman of the South Worcestershire CCGs, said self-care and prevention were key tenants in all of the long-term NHS plans but he was concerned funding cuts would not allow change to be delivered.

He said: “My worry is with the cuts to public health funding, can we really expect to deliver what are really wholesale changes?”

Dr Kelly said intervention in the first 18 months of a child’s life were important in preventing obesity but money for health visiting had been cut by 25 per cent in real terms.

He added: “I just worry whether we can actually achieve something worthwhile.”

Catherine Driscoll, director of children services at the county council, called the report a “timely piece of work” and said she was “completely sold” on prevention over cure.

She said: “I think we are intervening too late, we are fixing things at huge cost rather than preventing them.”