Effects of bad air laid bare: Manchester’s public health team bring a fresh approach to improve air quality

Manchester’s Public Health team have laid bare the effects of bad air with a report outlining the link between poor air quality and health.

Manchester City Council’s Director of Public Health, David Regan, has dedicated the city’s Public Health Annual Report to improving the issue of air quality, improving people’s understanding of air pollution, the effects that it is has on short term and long term health, what it means for the residents of Manchester and how we can all play a part in helping to reduce pollution.

The report points out that while most of us recognise the visible signs of poor air quality such as smog, even air which looks and we think is clean, can actually have numerous, invisible modern pollutants in it, such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter which are not good for our health.

Public Health England estimated that in 2016, the proportion of deaths due to fine particulate matter in Manchester was 5.2%, corresponding to 180 deaths.

Another pollutant of concern for Manchester is nitrogen dioxide, which tends to be associated with arterial roads into Manchester and the city centre.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation show that poor air quality is a major contributor to some of the leading causes of death worldwide including lung cancer, heart disease, strokes and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Children, pregnant women, older people and people with pre-existing conditions are most at risk. It doesn’t only impact on physical health but on mental health too as it can have a major influence on people’s emotions and behaviours.

Its publication coincides with National Clean Air day this Thursday 21 June where a range of events are taking place in Manchester and Greater Manchester to raise awareness of air pollution.

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member of Adult Health and Wellbeing said: “Air quality is a public health issue that has become increasingly prominent over the last few years.  The effects of poor air quality are real but there are lots of things we can do to look after our own and other people’s health. Clean Air day is the perfect time to start making changes for the better, leave the car at home and take public transport, cycle or walk – I’ll be doing my bit by cycling to work as I often do.  As a council we are also in a position to move this agenda forward with our roles in transport, schools and tobacco control with measures which can help to improve air quality for all.”

During the next year public health will put air quality at the heart of its agenda and prevention work will be a key part of this. Health and social care partners will be encouraged to incentivise healthier travel and the benefits of walking and cycling.  Programmes at the heart of communities will enable residents to identify and address issues such as air pollution impacting on their health and wellbeing.

The report recommends education programmes be  undertaken in schools to raise awareness of poor air quality with young people. It also recommends developing systems that can help GPs and primary care staff provide advice to people with underlying conditions when air quality is poor so that they know what to do to manage their condition. And through the tobacco control work we will continue to promote smoke free homes and smoke free spaces.

David Regan, Director of Public Health Manchester City Council and Director of Population Health and Wellbeing, Manchester Health and Care Commissioning said: “Air quality is a key priority in the public health agenda.  It is a major health issue which increases the risk of some serious illnesses and can make existing conditions like respiratory disorders worse. The health benefits are obvious if we can all take action to breathe cleaner air both inside and outside our homes. We will work together with our partners in health and with residents to create a healthier cleaner Manchester for future generations.”

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