Introduction

        Medical innovations and rapidly evolving technology has led to a decrease in the rate of mortality from diseases. However, the fast and constantly changing hectic lifestyle of today has led to the introduction of new diseases, unhealthy lifestyle and early, premature deaths. Today s technology has provided us with the benefits of early detection and preventive treatments and answers to some of the previously incurable diseases. But it has brought in increased stress and unhealthy eating and other habits that have in some ways caused more harm than benefit. This report titled  Smoking: The Heart Breaker is a look at the current situation of coronary heart diseases caused by smoking, relevant legislations, policies and practices, strategies to deal with the situation and future of the disease at local, national and global levels.

        The report will start by discussing the smoking and coronary heart disease as a public health issue and the reasons for concern. It will provide a background to help better understand the present situation along with an epidemiology of the disease and its causes, with special reference to smoking. It will then go on to report about the legislative policies and strategies that are being currently undertaken in the region of Burnley, East Lancashire to counter this particular health issue. The report will also discuss the policies and initiatives and the status of the health issue at national and global level, so as to provide a complete and holistic picture of the seriousness of the health issue. Finally the report will discuss the current strategies being employed by the government as well as non-government agencies to tackle the health issue. Recommendations will also be made to help make an improvement in the current situation.

Public Health Issue: Coronary Heart Disease due to Smoking

        The term  Coronary heart disease is used to describe a condition of blockage or interruption of blood supply to the heart due to build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries (NHS, 2009). This build-up (called atheroma) can lead to insufficient supply of blood to the heart causing pain in the chest known as angina. A completely blocked artery can lead to a heart attack (called myocardial infarction) (NHS, 2009). There are various mild to critical impacts of this condition that even result in death. According to the British Heart Foundation Statistics (2009), diseases related to the heart and circulatory issues are the biggest cause of deaths in the UK, resulting in over 90,000 deaths in the UK in a year. This has resulted in not only raised concerns about the disease but also growing efforts to increase the awareness about the disease, its causes, and preventive as well as precautionary measures that can help to avoid the disease. The situation isn t any brighter in other parts of the world.

         According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the majority of countries around the world are affected by coronary heart disease and the disease is a major killer, especially in developing and transitional countries of the world. In a WHO report, cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease is considered to be the leading cause of death and is projected to increase from 17.1 million in 2004 to 23.4 million in 2030 (WHO, 2004). Among the various causes of coronary heart disease, smoking is regarded to be one of the primary causes. According to the WHO report, tobacco-related deaths are expected to rise from 5.4 million in 2004 to 8.3 million in 2030, representing 10% of all global deaths; and smoking has been associated to cardiovascular diseases and subsequent deaths (WHO, 2004). According to a study conducted in 2008, smoking is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease (Bullen, 2008). Though increasing age has been thought as a cause of coronary heart disease, two studies have found that improper lifestyle, stress, etc are increasing the mortality rates due to coronary heart disease among the young population in the UK, USA and Australia (Nemetz, Roger & Ransom, 2008) & (Ford & Capewell, 2007). Therefore, the growing concern for this disease and its preventable yet common cause is the choice of topic for this report.

Background and Epidemiology

         Cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease have been found to be an unbiased killer that can create havoc in any society irrespective of its economic, political, cultural, religious, regional or racial identity. Similarly, tobacco smoking (either active or passive) is known to be a major cause of many diseases including the coronary heart disease. Given the stressful lifestyle in today s world, many people take up smoking to tackle the stress levels and in the process get addicted. They not only harm themselves but also people around them. The region of Burnley in East Lancashire, is no exception to this trend. Being witness to many friends and family members taking up smoking in the name of relieving stress and then getting addicted and finally ending up suffering from diseases, especially coronary heart disease inspired the choice of topic for this report.

There are several causes that can result in coronary heart disease. The NHS lists smoking as the major cause of the disease (NHS, 2009). The various other causes of coronary heart disease have been listed as high blood pressure, high level of cholesterol in blood, presence of thrombosis and / or diabetes unhealthy lifestyle with no regular exercise, obesity and a family history of angina and / or heart attack (which are hereditary) (Nemetz et al, 2008). The risk factors associated with coronary heart diseases which cannot be treated, modified or changed include age, gender and heredity (or race). Increasing age increases the risks of coronary heart disease and fatality from it. Men are found to be at a greater risk of suffering from coronary heart disease in comparison to women (Wells, 1999). Heredity of coronary disease or its causes such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol are also known to create risks of coronary heart conditions. The causes such as smoking, high level of cholesterol in blood, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, being overweight and / or obesity and diabetes (diabetes mellitus) are some of the risk factors of coronary heart disease that can be modified, changed and controlled by taking medication and / or by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Other risk factors and causes of the disease include stress and alcohol addiction and can in certain circumstances prove to be fatal causes of the coronary heart disease (Ewles & Simnet, 2003).

Comparative data of the effects of coronary heart disease in different countries do not provide a very positive picture (see appendix 1). According to a World Health Organisation survey report, the mortality from cardiovascular diseases in 2002 for the developed nations like the United Kingdom and the United States was higher than many other developing nations like China, India, even Nigeria (WHO, 2002). It is clear from the data, that developing countries have a much higher mortality rate from cardiovascular and consequently coronary heart diseases in the developed countries like UK, USA, Germany; and an important fact to notice is that the death rate is higher in the European region in comparison to other regions of the world. This most probably can be attributed to the excessive use of tobacco, alcohol, improper lifestyle that increases stress levels, improper eating habits that leads to blood sugar and cholesterol in the blood.

The tobacco usage in different countries around the world also points towards the grimness and enormity of the situation, through which one can appreciate the risk of tobacco causing further deaths due to coronary heart disease (WHO, 2008). The WHO report on tobacco consumption in different countries show that despite government initiatives and regulations, the tobacco consumption has mostly increased and has led to increased mortality especially in the age groups between 25-45 years.

Though coronary heart disease is of global nature without any kind of boundary, various specific groups of people are in greater risk of having the disease in comparison to others. The affinity to having coronary heart disease is dependent on factors such as geography, heredity, age and gender. Men are at an increased risk of suffering from coronary heart conditions as compared to women (Wells, 1999). Increase in age increases the chances of suffering from coronary heart disease (DoH, 2004). Coronary heart conditions are also known to be prevalent among Mexican Americans, some Asian Americans, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians (American Heart Association, 2010). England is one of the most vulnerable nations in Europe when it comes to coronary heart diseases (NHS, 2009). Populations in developing and underdeveloped nations of the world too are at a higher risk of suffering from coronary heart disease and related fatalities (American Heart Association, 2010). Smokers, obese people and people with high blood cholesterol are also included in the high risk group for coronary heart disease. Female smokers are more susceptible to the disease especially with increased age since females are more susceptible to the dangers of smoking in comparison to men (WHO, 2002).

        With increased impact of aggressive and unhealthy lifestyle and stress, the young population across the developed nations of the world too are increasingly coming under the risk of coronary heart disease (NHS, 2008). Therefore, these risk factors result in the coronary heart disease taking on a pandemic nature if certain precautionary and preventive measures are not taken to control the risk factors that can be influenced.

Strategies, Policies and Initiatives

Given the growing concern about coronary heart diseases, deaths due to the disease and the impact on the younger population, government agencies around the world are taking steps to combat the growing menace. Non-governmental and private agencies too are joining the efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle and awareness about preventive techniques that can help to bring down the risks associated with the disease and the rising cases of fatalities. This section of the report looks at the strategies, agenda, policies, that are being undertaken at the local (NHS East Lancashire, 2010), national and global levels to combat coronary heart disease.

Local Public Health

In East Lancashire, several workshops and other programmes have been undertaken to increase awareness, educate and help the residents of the area give up smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle that will help prevent and fight coronary heart disease. The MPs in the region are encouraging antismoking legislations and policies being adopted by the authorities. The NHS has introduced the concept of smoke free zones. The SMYL programme is promoting healthy lifestyle and eating habits (NHS East Lancashire, 2010). Another campaign called  Could it be you was also started in 2008 to help people fight coronary heart disease and adopt healthy and preventive lifestyle (Chime Communications Plc, 2008). The authorities in East Lancashire have also collaborated with different agencies to start networks that can promote anti tobacco campaign and raise awareness on coronary heart disease (NHS Networks, 2010). This involvement of the government as well as non-government agencies in the area, one can be hopeful that headway will be made into the matter. However, it is important that the public realise the criticality of the situation and take advantages of the programmes being undertaken to have a long, healthy and disease free life.

Implications at the National Level

         The National Heart Forum (2006) indicated that heart diseases cost the UK around £29 billion per year and was termed as  economic burden . There are several programmes that have been taken up by the health care authorities and the government in collaboration with non-government agencies to promote anti smoking habits in the country. Several regional programmes such as Bolsover  Teenage Smoking Programme, Corby  Smoking Cessation Programme, Halton  Smoke-Free Programme, London Borough of Tower Hamlets  Tobacco Control Alliance, Pendle  Smoke-free Council, Heartbeat Awards, the GO Smokefree Campaign, etc have been launched in an earnest to curb the growing effect of smoking in the country (I&DeA, 2009). Several governmental legislations have also been put into place (I&DeA, 2007). The Department of Health has also started programmes such as Start4Life, 5 A Day, National Support Teams and Let s Get Moving to promote healthy lifestyle that can help to prevent coronary heart disease (DoH, 2010). Therefore the various government and nongovernment agencies in UK are making effort to control smoking habit and improve lifestyle of the citizens of the country thereby ensuring a brighter future free from smoking and coronary heart disease.

Global Health

         The fight against smoking and coronary heart disease has taken enormous proportions with the growing realisation that these are two of the most important killers in the world today. Especially, the understanding that smoking causes diseases such as the coronary heart disease not only in the smoker but also in non-smokers who have been in the presence of smokers, has led major organisations and developed nations of the world to taking a stand against smoking. The  Work with Heart project by WHO is helping to spread the message of preventive actions that can help in prohibiting coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases (WHO, 2010a). WHO has also taken up research and global partnership initiatives to help the developing countries of the world fight cardiovascular diseases (WHO, 2010b). Furthermore, WHO has aligned with several countries in the world to promote regional activities under the global strategy to counter cardiovascular diseases which includes America, Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, South-East Asia, European region and Western Pacific (WHO, 2010c).

         To help fight the smoking addiction growing among countries, WHO has set up the Global Tobacco Surveillance System (GTSS) (WHO, 2010d) and is also collaborating with different international organisations such as the United Nations and the governments of various countries to help campaign against sale and use of tobacco among different nations (WHO, 2010e).

Recommendations and Conclusion

         Upon analysing the current situation on a local, national and global basis, the following recommendations can be made:

  • Initiatives to prevent coronary heart disease and promote anti smoking habits need to be undertaken at the grass root level, i.e. at local level. This will make the initiatives and campaigns more effective.
  • The developing nations such as India, Brazil and China need to be targeted with confidence.
  • Further researches into preventive and curative medicines and technologies for coronary heart diseases need to be promoted.
  • Healthy lifestyle needs to be promoted at every level since preventive practices are more beneficial than curative ones.

It is important to realise that despite several initiatives being taken by local, national and global agencies and governments, smoking trends are increasing around the world and has started to affect the young population. Coronary heart disease too has started to take its toll on the population around the world due to the hectic and unhealthy lifestyles that have come to permeate people s lives. It is highly essential that for the success of the initiatives and programmes, people must be involved in them and everyone across the globe has to realise that simple changes to their lifestyle, eating habits and anti smoking measures will help to fight and prevent coronary heart disease. The changes in lifestyle will also bring down coronary heart disease caused due to other factors such as stress, alcohol, blood sugar and cholesterol. To conclude, it can be stated that prevention is better than cure and quitting smoking and leading a healthy lifestyle can protect everyone from the silent killer, the coronary heart disease (Ewles & Simnet, 2003).

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