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FPH welcomes Public Health England report on health inequalities in the north of England

A report Public Health England once again highlights the major inequalities in health between the north and south of England.

Introducing the report, committee chair and Fellow of the  Faculty of Public Health (FPH), Professor Margaret  Whitehead, says: "We have lived with a north-south health divide in England for a long time, illustrated by the shocking statistic that a baby girl in Manchester can expect to live 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl in Richmond. This gap is not static but has continued to widen over recent decades. This regional health divide masks inequalities in health between different socio-economic groups within every region in England which are just as marked: health declines with increasing disadvantage of socio-economic groups wherever they live in the country."

The burden of local authority cuts and welfare reforms has fallen more heavily on the north than the south, according to studies undertaken by Dr Ben Barr and colleagues at the University of Liverpool.

FPH regards the health inequality between north and south as unacceptable and supports the broad thrust of the report’s  findings, many of which are mirrored by FPH’s forthcoming manifesto.

The report outlines how agencies in the north need to come together to prevent poverty and promote prosperity through the provision of high quality universal early years education and childcare; to promote a living wage; to use their joint spending power to promote good employment; and to improve the quality and affordability of housing.

The report states that central government policy is both the cause and the solution to some of the problems analysed by the Inquiry. It suggests urgent action is needed to ensure that investment is effective at reducing inequalities and to prevent austerity measures widening inequalities. This includes protecting and prioritising spending on children in the early years; allocating a greater share of resources to the places that need it most; and developing a national industrial strategy that reduces inequalities between regions by investing in sectors that promote sustainable employment in disadvantaged areas.

FPH Vice President for Policy, Dr John Middleton, said: "We welcome this report which is a timely reminder of how  inequalities in economic opportunity and poverty greatly affect inequalities in health and life expectancy. We urge local authorities to act on the recommendations which apply in the north of England and call on central government to respond positively to the recommendations which require national action."

Written: 15/09/2014 , last modified: 26/06/2015