EYEMOUTH is one of the most disadvantaged communities in the Borders and its distance from other centres of population means its residents have fewer higher education opportunities than others.
Scottish Borders director of public health, Dr Eric Baijal, focuses on the region’s five most disadvantaged communities and their particular issues in his latest annual report and he stresses: “Eyemouth stands out as particularly remote making opportunities less accessible for that community.”
On looking at health issues in Eyemouth, Bannerfield in Selkirk, Burnfoot in Hawick, Langlee in Galashiels and Walkerburn Dr Baijal said: “There are a large number of issues which are common across all five communities but there are a small number of issues in which there is a marked variation. These communities have a similar life experience, with teenage mothers, many mothers smoking in the important early weeks of pregnancy, low rates of breastfeeding and to some extent immunisation uptake coupled with poor educational attainment and dependence on benefits.
“However, there are important differences between these communities and therefore a variety of responses to their needs driven by the Healthy Living Network.
“The Healthy Living Network has been visible and high impact in these areas.
“In each community a health improvement professional has worked with it in collaboration with community learning and development, social work and the voluntary sector. The co-ordinator has engaged the community in needs assessment and with them has introduced initiatives to improve health and well-being.
In Eyemouth, 10 per cent of first time mothers are teenagers (40 per cent in Burnfoot); 31 per cent of mothers booking into antenatal care smoke; 27 per cent of new mothers breastfeed; four per cent of the working population are claiming Jobseekers Allowance (nine per cent in Langlee); 73 per cent of homes are in the lowest Council Tax bracket; the area has the highest percentage of the population on prescribed drugs for anxiety, depression or psychosis; and the area has the second highest level of neighbourhood crime in the Borders.
“While these communities have a worse life experience than other parts of the Borders they have enthusiastically embraced initiatives which they see as meeting their needs,” continued Dr Baijal.
Adding that the communities have generally taken a positive approach to the help being given to change lifestyles, Dr Baijal said: “I take the view that for a relatively small investment the Healthy Living Network has had a huge impact on many lives in these communities.”
And certainly in Eyemouth, Healthy Living Network worker Jo Highet is making a difference - establishing a healthy living group, exercise group, fruit and vegetable distribution, cookery classes, First Aid etc. Working with Momentum (Borders Brain Injury Service) the healthy living group have also been running Fishwick Gardens - last year they delivered 100 bags of vegetables to social groups, the local nursery and the local unemployed and they are looking to expand by working with Borders College horticultural department.
One mother who took advantage of the opportunities offered by Eyemouth Healthy Living Group said: “I’m very glad that I have taken advantage of these opportunities. It’s something that has filtered down into most aspects of my life.”