Living longer – how do/can we close the gap?

Public Health England

Today saw the launch of a new site by Public Health England aimed at local authorities showing the huge variations in early deaths statistics across England.

The league table uses a colour system to rate areas tackling premature deaths from red for the worst to green for the best, comparing the number of people under the age of 75 who died over a two-year period.

The stats show Birmingham ranks pretty unfavourably compared to other local authorities

Birmingham ranks 120th out of 150 authorities for overall premature death rates: Have a look at Birmingham here

However while this site is aimed at local authorities, to most these statistics are nothing new.  While public health functions have only recently transferred over to local authorities, in reality local bodies have been grappling with these statistics for years.   There have been numerous cross-agency delivery plans and strategies to try and increase life expectancy.  In fact in Birmingham, as with most areas in the UK, we have seen a steady increase in life expectancy over recent decades.

However it is the gaps that are most shocking.  In Birmingham there is nearly 12 years gap between the “best” and “worst” as illustrated in this diagram . Where you live is only part of it – gender, lifestyle, ethnicity end economic circumstances all have massive impact on how long you live and how you will die.

So what can be done now? We know we have to shift to preventive approaches, not just to save money in a time of austerity, but because it is the best way of solving these problems.  However, how much is the responsibility of the individual, and how much should local public bodies take ownership of these issues?

It would be great to hear off you for your thoughts.

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