A campaign started by a regional daily five years ago which encouraged people to take up free health checks has been praised after the service was rolled out nationally.
The Bolton News started its Big Bolton Health Check campaign in 2008 which called on people over 45 to take part in 10-minute checks to identify if they were at risk of heart disease.
Around 73,000 people took part in the free checks and more than 2,000 were shown to have high blood pressure, while emergency admissions for heart attacks were halved.
The paper’s campaign has been praised by local health bosses after the health checks for 40-70-year-olds were rolled out across England, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt planning to scale them up to ensure better provision and take-up.
Dr Stephen Liversedge, clinical director for primary care and health improvement in Bolton, told the paper: “We can be proud that we were the first to do this on a large scale.
“It was largely down to The Bolton News championing this campaign that we were able to reach so many people in Bolton.
“For the last four years we have built on the Big Bolton Health Check by focusing on prevention, identifying those at risk of developing long term conditions and supporting them to change their lifestyle and improve their health.”
Cllr Andy Morgan, who was chairman of Bolton Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee at the time of the campaign, said: “I think it’s a huge achievement for the Big Bolton Health Check to still be making waves nationally.
“It was great at the time to see people queuing around Victoria Square for their checks and it just goes to show what can be achieved when a newspaper gets behind a campaign.
“It’s massive and I think The Bolton News must be praised for their coverage of it at the time.”
Editor Ian Savage was involved with the campaign from its start and said it highlighted the importance of local newspapers.
He said: “Working closely with the primary care trust, we did all we could to explain the importance of the quick and easy checks that could save lives.
“The trust made having the checks as accessible as possible, holding sessions in places like the town square, pubs, shops and even churches.
“There was no doubt that the many articles we did at the time had a big impact – thousands of people who had never considered being checked out by their GP, decided to finally do so.
“And when the results showed the massive reduction emergency admissions through heart attack, it really demonstrates the importance of local newspapers.
“The press gets more than its fair share of flak, but this shows just how vital it is to have a campaigning newspaper in the community.”