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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 09:29 GMT
Alcohol abuse 'killing hundreds'
Alcohol abuse continues to cause hundreds of deaths in Northern Ireland each year, according to the province's chief medical officer.

Dr Henrietta Campbell's annual report, The Health of the Public in Northern Ireland highlights alcohol abuse, both by adults and young people, as one of its major concerns.

Dr Campbell said alcohol misuse was causing uncessary deaths and adding to hospital pressures.

"150 people die here each year as a direct result of alcohol misuse, and a further 650 die because of diseases or injuries related to alcohol," she said.

Henrietta Campbell:
Henrietta Campbell: "Alcohol misuse directly causes 150 deaths a year"

"Alcohol is also a major contributory factor to the current pressures being experienced by acute hospitals, particularly the A&E Departments and medical wards.

"One recent study revealed that 40% of admissions to an acute medical ward over a six month period were related to alcohol abuse."

'Poor diet'

In her report, Dr Campbell said there was still major concern about the lifestyle of young people, particularly in relation to smoking and poor diet.

She said: "Recent surveys showed that 35% of young people have smoked tobacco and half of those aged between 15 and 16 years old have been intoxicated within the previous 30 days.

"Their diet is also an area of concern. Its nutritional content falls well below acceptable standards.

"Only one in 10 children in Northern Ireland are eating the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables.

"The simple messages about a healthy diet, moderate exercise and no smoking are even more important for our young people if we are to build a healthy society."

Youth illness

Dr Campbell said the cases she had come into contact with showed that good health in youth could be taken for granted.

Her report contains extracts from the stories of young people who live with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, anorexia nervosa and kidney failure.

Dr Campbell said: "These young people manage to lead full and rich lives despite their disabilities. They are an inspiration to us all."

Older people

However, she said the winter flu vaccination programme had been "very successful" with 68% of men and women aged 65 having been vaccinated by the end of November 2001.

"This has undoubtedly saved many lives and prevented much ill health."

Dr Campbell said population estimates indicated that "the number of older people in our community is continuing to increase year on year".

The number of births was continuing to fall, she said.

In 2000 there were 21,512 babies born, compared with 27,427 in 1985.

"The downward trend in infant mortality rates has been maintained with the 2000 rate of 5.1 deaths per 1,000 babies being the lowest to date," she added.

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Chief NI Medical Officer Dr Henrietta Campbell
"The figures are very significant"
See also:

07 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Waiting lists hit all-time high
11 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Action urged over health service crisis
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