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Poorest in England suffer ‘avoidable and unfair’ health inequality – report

This article was taken from: https://news.sky.com/story/poorest-in-england-suffer-avoidable-and-unfair-health-inequality-report-11494948

By Paul Kelso, health correspondent

A report finds the poorest may spend a third of their lives in ill health, compared to a sixth for those in less deprived areas.

The UK has failed to close “unfair and unavoidable” health inequalities, with the most deprived in society facing 19 more years of ill health in their lifetime than the most well-off.

Health inequalities between the rich and poor were described as “a burning injustice” by Theresa May in her first speech as prime minister, but the Health Profile for England, a survey compiled by Public Health England (PHE), has found little progress.

The life expectancy gap between the poorest and the richest is 9.3 years for men and 7.3 years for women.

Heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases account for a third of the gap, with smoking and obesity posing the greatest threat in terms of disease.

The report says the health gap is driven by social and economic inequalities, and that there is “no evidence that inequalities in life expectancy have narrowed in recent years”.

Austerity policies introduced by the coalition government in 2010 have been blamed for increasing general inequality, and the report’s authors say health outcomes are dependent on wider factors

“These inequalities are most striking for children and have quite long-term causes. A poor start can lead to poor health throughout your life,” said professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE.

“Improving education, housing, welfare and making sure people have stake in the community in which they live can all contribute to improving outcomes and reducing inequalities.”

Elsewhere the report paints a picture of a growing, ageing population that will pose new challenges to the nation’s health.

Life expectancy was 79.6 for men and 83.2 for women in 2017, but there is evidence the rate of increase in life-expectancy is stalling after years of improvement.

PHE say it is possible life expectancy has reached a plateau and its projections say it may even decrease as the benefits of improvements in the treatment of conditions such as heart disease are offset by the rise in age-related conditions.

The report says the number of over-85s in England could increase to more than two million by 2031, placing increased strain on the NHS and social care systems.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s have become the leading cause of death in women and are also set to overtake heart disease as the primary cause in men by 2020.

The increasing population means that the number of deaths is increasing rapidly. There were 500,000 deaths in 2017 and that could increase 10% to more than 550,000 by 2023.

Obesity meanwhile remains a major cause for concern, with projections that there could five million diabetics in England by 2035, an increase of more than one million on today, with the majority suffering from lifestyle-driven Type 2 diabetes.

The Health Survey for England, which draws on already published information and PHE’s own analysis, is intended to inform public policy and to provide an evidence base for the long-term plan for the NHE currently being negotiated.

Nowhere is the divide more stark than in Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham, which has the widest gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor nationwide.

Women still have a longer life expectancy than men, at 83.1 to 79.5, but are said to spend more of their lives poorly.