Research highlights impact of health inequality gap

Published On: 29th October 2018

Rates of premature mortality are two times higher in the most deprived areas of England (Blackpool), compared to the most affluent (Wokingham), according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The University has published a comprehensive analysis of health at a local, national and regional level across the UK in The Lancet. The findings are also accessible via an interactive ‘Lost Years’ map – which reveals the extent of health inequality across the UK.

The map allows users to find out how many years of life are lost in their area to the 20 leading causes of premature death, and see ‘heat maps’ for the amount of years lost to these causes.

The key findings of the research include:

  • Half of all premature deaths in the UK are linked to risk factors including tobacco, diet, alcohol and drug use, obesity and high blood pressure.
  • The huge burden of disability from low back and neck pain, anxiety and depression.
  • Areas of London and Birmingham performed better on health indicators compared to areas with similar levels of deprivation in Manchester and Liverpool.

Lead author Prof Nicholas Steel, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “As death rates decrease, people continue to live with long-term, often multiple, conditions.

“Our findings show a significant shift from mortality to morbidity, yet our health services are still designed to deal with the big killers. Today, conditions such as back and neck pain and anxiety and depression are huge causes of disability in the UK.”

He added: “All countries in the UK could further reduce the burden of disease through effective prevention. Good progress has been made on reducing the prevalence of smoking to historic lows, but there is scope to do much more in almost all areas of prevention. Health services need to realise that prevention is a core activity, not an optional extra to be undertaken if resources allow.”

Welcoming the study’s conclusions, Lord Andrew Mawson, Executive Chairman of Well North, said: “If we want to help people to stay well and live longer, we must tackle the underlying causes of poor physical and mental health – which include poverty and debt, isolation, unemployment, lack of education and training opportunities, low quality housing.

“Well North has been leading the way in 10 communities, inspiring and supporting local people to take innovative, entrepreneurial approaches to improving their health and wellbeing. Finding new, practical and sustainable ways to connect individuals and families, NHS services, local authorities, business and employers, the voluntary and social enterprise sectors, has the potential to deliver a significant improvement to our nation’s health.

“We are now extending our reach with the Well North approach into new towns and cities through Well North Enterprises. This social business is perfectly placed to bring a fresh approach to tackling these underlying causes, joining some dots and unleashing the potential in people and places for more “years of life saved”, years with great quality to them.”

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