This page has information about how the place and environment you live in can impact your health and wellbeing.

Introduction

Local authorities have a critical role in protecting the health of their population, both in terms of:

  • planning to prevent threats arising, and
  • ensuring appropriate responses when things go wrong.

Health protection aims to prevent, assess and mitigate risks to human health. This includes from diseases, environmental hazards such as chemicals and natural events such as heatwaves.

Local authority public health

The role of our public health team is to manage the consequences of outbreaks and incidents. This could include communications, fostering relationships with schools and parents, and liaising between local community and regional health protection teams.

Local resilience forums

Local authorities are key members of local resilience forums (LRFs). LRFs are multi-agency partnerships made up of representatives from local public services, including:

  • the emergency services,
  • local authorities,
  • the NHS,
  • and the Environment Agency.

Health protection in Portsmouth

Vaccination coverage

Portsmouth vaccination coverage as a whole is better than the national average. However, uptake of some childhood vaccinations have declined in recent years.

Our public health team are working with community champions and school nursing teams to increase the uptake of childhood vaccinations. We’re also supporting NHS England with national vaccination promotion campaigns.

Mosquitos and ticks

Rising temperatures caused by climate change are predicted to increase mosquito and tick populations. Other climate changes, such as increased humidity and rainfall, may enable greater mosquito breeding.

Recent research into insects that carry disease has identified the risk of an invasive non-native mosquito species becoming established in the UK.

As a port city, Portsmouth is at increased risk of imported mosquitos. To date, no invasive mosquito species have been identified in Portsmouth as part of a routine surveillance service.

Extreme weather

Climate change is already having an impact around the world. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, and sea levels are rising.

It’s important to consider the needs of the Portsmouth population in relation to extreme weather events.

During the five heat-periods between June and August 2022 (when either a level 3 heat health alert is issued or when the central England temperature is higher than 20°C), 56,303 deaths occurred in England and Wales. This is 6.2% above the five-year average.

You can view more information on tackling and adapting to climate change in Portsmouth.

Air pollution in Portsmouth

Air pollution is the largest environmental risk to the public’s health in the UK. There is strong evidence that air pollution:

  • causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, and lung cancer,
  • makes asthma worse, and
  • contributes to early death.

It is estimated that long-term exposure to air pollution in the UK has an annual effect of between 28,000 to 36,000 deaths. This amounts to a loss of population life of 328,000-416,000 years lost.

Reducing air pollution has co-benefits including:

  • increasing workers’ productivity
  • increasing active travel and physical activity
  • improving the health of vulnerable groups and those with chronic conditions such as asthma which can be made worse by air pollution.

The pollutants causing the most significant health impacts in the UK are:

  • nitrogen dioxide
  • particulate matter

The main source of nitrogen dioxide air pollution in Portsmouth is road traffic. This is responsible for around half of the air pollution in the city.

Other sources are industrial, commercial, domestic, and background pollution brought into the city from weather systems.

Health impacts of air pollution in Portsmouth

In 2020, the proportion of adult deaths ‘attributable to long term exposure to air pollution’ in Portsmouth was 6.2% (over 1 in 20 deaths), compared to an England value of 6%.

Air quality affects everyone, but it has a bigger impact on the most vulnerable. Those who are the most at risk of air pollution effects are:

  • children,
  • the elderly,
  • those with long-term health conditions, and
  • those living close to main roads where pollution is worst

In Portsmouth in 2022 there were around:

  • 48,854 children aged 19 and under
  • 31,297 people aged 65 and over
  • 36,649 people living with a limiting long-term illness or disability.

Health inequality and air pollution

The negative impacts of poor air quality aren’t experienced equally.

Those who are already socially disadvantaged tend to be exposed to higher levels of pollution, and therefore experience more severe consequences.  For example, areas of deprivation tend to be closer to heavy road traffic (where air quality is worse).

People living in areas of deprivation are also more likely to be living with pre-existing risk factors, such as obesity, heart disease and smoking. These can worsen the effects of air pollution.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) are set up when an area exceeds the annual nitrogen dioxide emission. In the last two years, several locations across the city have experienced nitrogen dioxide levels that are higher than the legal limit.

As one of the most densely populated cities outside London, the impacts of polluted air on the health of the local population are substantial. In 2017, around 3% of the Portsmouth population lived within an Air Quality Management Area.

Air pollution vulnerability

The UK Health Security Agency have estimated air pollution vulnerability for Portsmouth, with the very old and very young, and those living in areas of deprivation being most vulnerable.

  • 51% of the Portsmouth population are estimated to be in the most vulnerable categories for air pollution, scoring 9 and 10 out of 10 (around 110,022 people)
  • Around 82% of the population were in the top 4 categories of vulnerability (7/10 or more).

Air quality and hospital admissions

Data analysis in 2017 explored a link between emergency hospital admissions for respiratory and circulatory diseases and areas of poor air quality.

Those with the highest exposure are also the lowest emitters. Despite being one of the most polluted areas of the city, in Charles Dickens (our most deprived ward) between 53% and 59% of people don’t have access to a car.

What can you do to limit your exposure to air pollution?

Use other modes of transport

Being a passenger or driver in a car or van can expose you and your family to more air pollution than any other mode of travelling by road.

Car users are exposed to the highest rates of in-vehicle air pollution, with up to 70% higher exposure levels than cyclists to certain pollutants. Walking is the mode of transport with the least exposure.

Around 50% of air pollution in the city comes from vehicles. Choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport, will not only reduce overall vehicle pollution but will also reduce your own and your families’ exposure to air pollution.

Plan to use quieter routes

You can limit your exposure by staying away from busy main roads wherever possible. The city’s network of quieter routes are signed cycling routes. They follow backstreet routes and avoid some of the busier and more polluted roads in the city.

Check air quality

If you suffer from a respiratory condition such as asthma, you can use the DEFRA Daily Air Quality Index. This provides up-to-date information on levels of air pollution and health advice.

The index is numbered 1-10 (low to very high), to provide detail about air pollution levels in a simple way, similar to the sun index or pollen index.

More information

More information on air pollution and health can be found at:

For more information about air quality monitoring and efforts to reduce air pollution in Portsmouth see: