A survey of local health promotion initiatives for older people in Wales
1 Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Cardiff University, North Wales Clinical School, Wrexham, UK
2 Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Cardiff University, North Wales Clinical School, Gwenfro Unit 6/7, Wrexham Technology Park, Wrexham, LL13 7YP, UK
BMC Public Health 2008, 8:217 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-217Published: 20 June 2008
As the demographic profile of the UK changes, policy makers and practitioners have to respond to health challenges presented by a progressively ageing population. The health promotion plan for older people, aged over 50 years, in Wales included eight key areas: physical activity, healthy eating, home safety and warmth, emotional health, health protection, smoking, alcohol and sexual health. The aim of this study was to describe the extent, content and regional variation of existing health promotion initiatives for older people in Wales, provided by statutory, voluntary and private sector agencies.
A questionnaire was sent to senior health promotion specialists employed in the 22 local authority areas in Wales to ascertain details of all projects promoting health and wellbeing in the eight key areas where the priority population was aged over 50, or the majority of users were older people. Additional information was sought from project leads and websites.
Eighteen questionnaires were returned; not all were fully completed. Four areas did not return a questionnaire. Additional information was obtained from internet searches but this mainly concerned national initiatives rather than local projects. In all, 120 projects were included, 11 were throughout Wales. Best provision was for physical activity, with 3 national and 42 local initiatives, but local provision was patchy. Healthy eating, and home safety and warmth had far fewer initiatives, as did health protection, which comprised two national immunisation campaigns. Smoking and alcohol misuse were poorly provided for, and there was no provision for older people's sexual health. Evaluation arrangements were poorly described. Half of those who responded identified unmet training needs.
The reasons for patchy provision of services were not clear. Increased efforts to improve the coverage of interventions known to be effective should be made. Rigorous evaluation of projects is needed to ascertain the most effective and appropriate interventions, especially for alcohol misuse and sexual health. These conclusions are relevant to the other countries of the United Kingdom (UK), and more widely across Europe.