Giving children the best start in life and ensuring life-long mental wellbeing are the two priorities for Herefordshire in a new ten-year strategy bringing together all the county’s health bodies.

“The foundations of health, from heart disease to mental health, are laid in early childhood,” Herefordshire Council’s director of public health Matt Pearce told a meeting of over 100 healthcare professionals at strategy’s launch at Hereford Racecourse this week.

“Trauma in childhood affects outcomes through into adulthood,” he said, and pointed out there are measures of children’s health where Herefordshire compares poorly with the rest of the county.


“A quarter of our children are overweight or obese when they start school, which is above the national average,” he said.

Child tooth decay, found in a third of all five-year-olds, is also high in the county, he added. “That’s also something this strategy needs to address.”

Hereford Times: Herefordshire Council director of public health Matt PearceHerefordshire Council director of public health Matt Pearce (Image: LDRS)

Herefordshire also scores poorly on the number of younger children needing treatment for mental health issues, he said.

“And if you can detect dementia early, there is now a strong evidence base on what to do.”


There is a 17-year difference for women, and 15 years for men, between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy, which needs to be addressed, he said.

Wye Valley NHS Trust managing director and chair of the One Herefordshire Partnership board Jane Ives added on this: “It’s the years of ill health, rather than people’s age, that cost the money.

“These can be improved by diet, exercise and education.”

Christine Price, chief officer and community health body Healthwatch Herefordshire, said that better prevention would “stem the current unsustainable demand for crisis health services”, but would require communities to take more control. “But it’s difficult for the public sector and communities to work together.”

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“There are huge opportunities to do things differently in Herefordshire,” she said.

Herefordshire Council leader Jonathan Lester told the meeting: “The health and well-being of our residents has never been more important. In the NHS, we are lucky to have such a great service available to all.

“But we need to address the wider determinants of health outcomes, like the four- to five-year difference in life expectancy between richer and poorer areas of the county.”