DoH launches next step in tackling health inequality

Deprived areas to be targetted
Deprived areas to be targetted

The government has launched a new web-based tool to help reduce the life expectancy gap between England's wealthiest and most deprived areas.

Currently the average man in England can expect to live until 76.9 years of age and the average woman 81.1 years. But in the 70 'Spearhead' areas singled out by the government for poor health this falls to 74.9 and 79.6 respectively.

The Health Inequalities Intervention Tool is designed to help local health services and councils identify areas affected by poor health and suggest simple steps to rectify it.

Recommendations include encouraging people to stop smoking, introducing measures to cut infant deaths and prescribing antihypertensive and statin drugs.

Dr Bobbie Jacobson, vice-chair of the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) and director of the London Health Observatory said: "The tool is the first of its kind to provide hard-edged, local evidence to planners and commissioners, on the causes of their life expectancy gap and how it can be reduced.

"The tool is easy to use and saves local agencies time and analytical effort. More importantly, we hope it will help Spearhead authorities to close the gap."

The initiative will take a proactive approach to targeting patients. Using local information, it will estimate how many patients GPs should be treating, allowing Primary Care Trusts to launch campaigns to bring people into surgeries.

Launching the service, public health minister Dawn Primarolo said the DoH had made tackling health inequalities a priority.

By 2010 it wants to achieve a ten per cent cut in the difference in life expectancy between the bottom five areas and England as a whole. Three-fifths of Spearhead areas are already on target to meet this.

Ms Primarolo said: "Our task now is to support local NHS and local authority service planners, commissioners and front-line staff to deliver on those targets and this is an excellent example of giving staff in Spearhead areas the tools to do the job and to do it well."


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