Research sheds light on impact of inequality on life expectancy

A study by Cambridge University which raises questions about inequality across the country has placed a local health and care system town first for life expectancy.

Frimley, in Surrey, was identified as one of the healthiest towns in the country, with both male and female life length among the longest.

The study looked at health inequality across the nation and how that equated to life expectancy. It demonstrated that in the poorest towns people have on average 12 fewer years of good health than in the richest towns.

It also showed that lung cancer is twice as prevalent in the most deprived towns and child obesity in the poorest towns is nearly double that in the wealthiest areas by the end of primary school.

Fiona Edwards is Lead of the Frimley Health and Care Integrated Care System, a partnership of health and social care service commissioners and providers working together to support the area’s 800,000 people.

She said: “It is wonderful that within our area we have a town where people are living healthy lives for so long. This is something we want to replicate across all of our communities and we and our many partners are working extremely hard at achieving.

“However, this study also highlights the inequalities in our communities and the good fortune of some of our residents is seen in stark contrast to the situation of others at the lower end of a widening gap.”

The people of Aldershot and Farnborough, just a short distance from Frimley, are likely to live for two years less than their near neighbours. The life expectancy at birth for men in Slough is more than three years below that of neighbouring Windsor and Maidenhead, and the gap for women is more than two years.

Ms Edwards said: “The study confirms much of what we already know about being able to live a long, healthy life – that it relies on much more than just good health and care services. It is the result of many complex factors, particularly people’s socio-economic backgrounds.

“As a partnership we’re driven by the desire to support people in our more deprived areas, to help them overcome the barriers they face so that they too can lead longer, fuller lives. Good health is something we should all be able to aspire to and achieve.”

The report gives many cautionary notes, stating among its key findings: “Health outcomes in towns are, compared with cities, moving in a worse direction in the last few years – the previous pattern of rising life expectancy has stalled or gone into reverse in many English towns.

It states that the built environment of towns, including provision of green spaces, and the kind of retail options provided – including fast food outlets – are closely linked to inhabitants’ health outcomes.

For more information and to access the report, click here.

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