Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 30

Mark Overton is head of health inequalities and Ruth McKeown is director of public health at South Tyneside PCT.

South Tyneside primary care trust set up a joint Choosing Health team with South Tyneside council to reduce obesity and coronary heart disease risks and linked morbidities.

It based the team on a model already adopted for smoking cessation, which saw South Tyneside record the most successful quit rate in England and Wales in 2002-03.

The team receives referrals from GPs to help people change lifestyle risk factor behaviours, and provides a managed and structured programme of self care though increased physical activity and better diet. The team works directly with those referred, or points them towards community-based or specialist support.

The team is managed by the primary prevention manager, employed by the council, but works in the public health development department under the line management of the PCT's head of health inequalities. It consists of six PCT-employed health and lifestyle advisers (HLAs) and six community health officers (CHOs) employed by South Tyneside council aligned to the six community area forums.

The HLAs identify goals, the best intervention for the individual, and progress. They develop specific interventions - for example, weight management groups, single gender groups and individual programmes.

If someone fails to continue with an initiative, the HLAs identify the problem.

The CHOs direct patients to community-based schemes or specialist support - for example, smoking intermediate advisers - and create programmes where gaps exist, including links with the business and community sectors.

Performance evaluation is through six key areas ranging from promotion of daily physical activity (to national minimum standards) to targeting hard-to-reach groups in South Tyneside.

Maggie Rae, head of local delivery and the DoH health inequalities unit, says: The linking of health goals suited to individuals and close links with the community creates an ideal framework.

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