WHAT IS BEHIND THE LOW RANK?
Reporter IT has been ranked one of Britain’s unhealthiest cities, a takeaway blackspot and has the highest level of childhood obesity in the North East.
Some would say Sunderland having a hard time of it in 2018.
In a recent report, research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RPSPH) found it was the fifth unhealthiest city in Britain.
And it said residents living in towns where high streets are packed with bookies and off-licences die younger than those with more pharmacies and libraries.
A quarter of children in year 6 and 11.4% of youngsters in reception are obese, figures show.
The city also has the second highest number of adult smokers in England.
We decided to take a walk around Sunderland, chat to residents and speak to business leaders about what life is really like in the city. Here’s what we noticed.
There’s plenty of bookies and takeaways
In the survey, cities and towns lost marks for the amount of fast food takeaways and bookmakers they have.
Well, it is safe to say there is no shortage of either in Sunderland.
Within a few hundred metres there are three bookies close to each other, and a short walk to Holmeside there are numerous takeaway outlets to choose from.
The city was also named in the top 10 for the highest number of takeways and fast food outlets, with 245 in the city in 2018.
The number of takeaways has increased by three-quarters since 2010 – a total of 105 new eateries have opened, according to data by the Office of National Statistics.
There are also a lot of casinos, pawnshops and charity shops.
But the city did have an opticians, coffee shops and pubs, which it would have picked up points on.
What did residents have to say about health concerns?
Baker Steven Humble, 29, from Redhouse, said: “It could have more healthy places I suppose.
“I’m not going to lie, I like takeaways and stuff like that.
“There definitely could be more variety, but it is never going to change really.
“I would love that – I spent most of my childhood in there. It’s a shame to knock that down and put a piece of grass there.
“Kids now have got nowt. There’s the aquatics centre and that’s about it. When I was younger I spent most of my time in the leisure centre.”
Project manager Jude Gilhespy, 60, from Ryhope, agreed.
She said: “I think there’s a distinct lack of places where you can go and do things and physical exercise.
“I think one of the reasons for that is the council doesn’t have an awful lot of money.”
Jude said that although there are leisure centres in the area, more needs to be done.
“I think it needs more from GPs in the local communities,” she added.
“Them saying to people and this is what you need to be doing to make an effort, and for them to liaise with sporting arenas and things to get people and encourage them to.
“I think we need that type of thing, rather than abandoning people to do it themselves because that can be difficult for anybody.”
What did business leaders say?
Graham Burt, the chief executive of Sunderland Carers Centre, branded the ranking “an insult”.
He said: “Sunderland has a history of supporting heavy industry, from coal mining to shipbuilding to automotive manufacturing. However, thriving in the more historic industries can sometimes come at a cost for people’s health. There are many who still suffer from serious health conditions exacerbated by their former working environment and there are many others that suffer ill health because of issues associated with poverty, but to label any of them ‘unhealthy’ is an insult, given that they are being impacted by factors outside their own control.”
Mr Burt said the city needs to think healthier but there are other factors playing a role.
“There are many factors impacting on the health of people that are far more complex than the number of bookmakers or off-licences on our high streets,” he added.
John Seager, chief executive of Siglion, questioned those behind the survey.
He said: “I wonder what the people who compile these surveys expect to get out of them or whether they appreciate the stigma that they unnecessarily attach to a town or city.
“The fact is that, for most who live, work and play in Sunderland, it does not reflect the reality of the place they love.”
Mr Seager said the city has an annual 10k and half marathon, and there is an abundance of parks and outdoor space.
He added: “Our work on Vaux will see the arrival of new, state-of-the-art workspaces, that will promote wellbeing.”
What did Sunderland City Council say?
Councillor Stuart Porthouse, the council’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration also questioned the methodology of the survey. He said: “I’ve visited other big cities recently and I do genuinely think they are worse than ours for litter and I do wonder about the evidence and methodology for these surveys. “Having said that, and as the society notes, this council, and others across the country, need more freedom, more powers and extra resources to make more positive influences on high streets and local communities. We all want to see a cleaner, greener and healthier city, and the council and its partners do their utmost to achieve this.”
John Seager, Chief Executive of Siglion