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Health professionals and social scientists at the Universities of St Andrews and Dundee are working to take issues of health and lifestyle into the community.

The Universities are involved in a new Healthy Living Initiative funded through the New Opportunities Fund, NHS Tayside and

Dundee City Council.

The new project takes healthy eating, exercise, stress management and other health improvement activities into designated communities- not by building a new centre – but by taking the information to the places people attend on a daily basis.

Community health workers will be working in Dundee’s social inclusion partnership areas – Ardler, Kirkton, Mid Craigie, Linlathen and the Hilltown. Evidence shows that people living in these areas experience significant health inequalities and find it hard to adopt healthy lifestyles, often due to the barrier of low income. In the case of nutrition and diet, people may eat an unhealthy combination of foodstuffs which are lacking fibre and high in salt, sugar and fat. Research shows that a contributing factor is a lack of money, and the difficulties people experience in trying to access good quality, healthy food at a reasonable price. The new project will incorporate “healthy eating on a budget” cooking classes to help break down the barriers to healthy eating. Fruit and vegetable co-ops, run by volunteers may be another route to providing low cost produce at a local level.

Dr Alex Greene and Sue Lewis, medical anthropologists at the University of St Andrews, will evaluate the project, gauge the response of the public and assess its success.

“This is an excellent opportunity to join local residents’ perspectives and needs with community project initiatives in a bottom up approach. We already know that knowledge about health information isn’t always enough to change people’s lifestyle attitudes and behaviour. What is important, along with accessible and reasonably priced options, is people’s belief in their effectiveness to make healthy living changes,” said Dr Greene.

Somnath Mukhopadhyay, senior lecturer in Paediatric Medicine at the University of Dundee, is working with the St Andrews team.

She explains: “The majority of the children coming to hospital suffer from simple conditions like constipation and urinary tract infections. This is often due to too many crisps and chocolate and not enough fruit and vegetables in the diet. There is lots of information on improving diet and reducing health problems available but to make it work we need to take it to the places people go every day.

“Instead of spending money on a new health centre and attracting people into it, we are taking the information and expertise to GP’s surgeries, council offices, schools and health centres.

“Research on diet and disease, smoking and its effects on children’s health, breast feeding and its implications for the young child has come from Dundee and other universities but is slow in getting through to the University’s hinterland in Dundee: Ardler, the Hilltown and St Mary’s.”

This project is part of the Promoting Partnership Initiative between the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews drawing on both universities’ strengths to expand teaching and research and build relationships with industry.

ENDS

Contacts:

Gayle Cook, Press Officer, University of St Andrews – 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Jenny Marra, Press Officer, University of Dundee – 01382 344910 or email j.m.marra@dundee.ac.uk Ref: healthy living a greene pr310303 View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

 

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