Page last updated at 06:53 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 07:53 UK

Call for health inequalities push

Elderly pensioner
Life expectancy varies greatly from place to place

Ministers are urging local authorities in England to target problem "hotspots" after producing a detailed breakdown of public health indicators.

Health profiles, covering a range of data from life expectancy to obesity and breastfeeding, have been compiled for each council area.

They show wide regional variations with the north of England often doing worse than the south.

It comes as the government struggles to narrow regional health inequalities.

Highest percentage rate:
Hackney, London: 16.10
Wakefield, West Yorkshire: 15.97
Ellesmere Port and Neston, Cheshire: 14.92
Ryedale, North Yorkshire: 14.85
Tower Hamlets, London: 14.65
Lowest percentage rate:
Teesdale, Durham: 4.86
South Lakeland, Cumbria: 5.29
Waverley, Surrey: 5.31
Brentwood, Essex: 5.46
Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire: 5.56
England average: 9.87

Ministers in England pledged to reduce the inequality gap - measured by infant mortality and life expectancy - by 10% between 1997 and 2010.

But a government commissioned report published earlier this year showed it was still widening.

The health profiles, which were first launched last year, give the most detailed local breakdown on a range of measures.

Overall, the gap in life expectancy between the best and the worst stands at 10 years for men and nine for women.

Men in Kensington and Chelsea in London can expect to live for 83.1 years, while in Manchester they die at 73 on average.

Meanwhile, women in Kensington and Chelsea have the highest life expectancy - 87.2 years - and those in Liverpool the lowest, at 78.3.

The figures also show that the death rate from smoking varies three-fold from the best area, East Dorset at 139 per 100,000 people, to the worst, Knowsley at 355.

Inequalities around the country are start, but the NHS and local authorities can use these profiles to target local health hotspots
Dawn Primarolo, public health minister

And there is another north/south divide for mothers initiating breastfeeding. Nine in 10 mothers in the London borough of Lambeth start breastfeeding, compared to just three in 10 in Knowsley.

However, child obesity was highest in London's Hackney with 16% of reception children classed as obese, compared to 5% in Teesdale. The national average stood at 10%.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Inequalities around the country are stark, but the NHS and local authorities can use these profiles to target local health hotspots."

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said: "These figures provide a health 'MoT Test' for every council in the country, so we can see at-a-glance what needs fixing locally.

"They also show that solid efforts to tackle issues like obesity or smoking can buck the north-south trend."

Saranjit Sihota, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: "While we celebrate 60 years of the NHS, these health profiles show us that the nation is a picture of very unequal health.

"You only need to look at the soaring rates of type 2 diabetes in deprived areas to know that what is needed for the next 60 years is concerted action to turn things around."

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