Disparity of life expectancy in Suffolk

PEOPLE living in the most deprived areas of Suffolk have an average life expectancy of 12 years less then those from the more affluent parts of the county, new figures have revealed.

Annie Davidson

PEOPLE living in the most deprived areas of Suffolk have an average life expectancy of 12 years less then those from the more affluent parts of the county, new figures have revealed.

Health profiles for the whole of England were made public yesterday and revealed some shocking facts about the lifestyles of both old and young in Suffolk.

The most positive picture was painted of the county's children, with obesity below the national average and the number of children classed as physically active only just below the national average.

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In contrast one in four adults were obese - with only 28% of them eating healthily and one in nine of them physically active - and the number of smokers was higher than the national average.

In addition, one in six people in Suffolk binge drink.

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Some areas of the county - including parts of Haverhill and Sudbury and the Leiston area - had an average life expectancy which is 12 years fewer than other parts of Suffolk such as the St Edmundsbury district.

Sally Hogg, head of health improvement partnerships for NHS Suffolk, said: “Although the health of people in Suffolk is generally very good and better than average we still have an approximately 12 year difference between people living in the most affluent areas of the county and those who live in the most deprived.

“It is our intention to reduce that and become the healthiest county in the country by 2028.

“That is why we launched Healthy Ambitions Suffolk in November last year. We know that an ability to stay healthy is a joint problem and not just an NHS problem

“It is an issue for all our partners and everyone that lives and works in Suffolk.”

NHS Suffolk launched Healthy Ambitions Suffolk working alongside organisations including Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Sports Partnerships, West Suffolk College, the Learning and Skills Council and Suffolk Constabulary.

Mrs Hogg said the causes of the county's health profile were historical and related to issues including access to education and economic prosperity.

Her view was supported by the figures showing Ipswich's teenage pregnancy rate as 47.2% - “significantly higher” than the national average of 41.2%.

And Forest Heath was in the bottom ten worst areas in the country for youngsters achieving at least five A*-C GCSE grades including maths and English.

Mrs Hogg said people needed to be worked with and helped to develop ways round their particular issue - such as smoking or eating high fat foods - rather than being told what to do.

The top three priorities for the first year of Healthy Ambitions Suffolk are to reduce health inequalities, promote healthy, sustainable communities throughout the county and increase the opportunities for a healthy and productive workforce in Suffolk with wider social inclusion in employment.

Dr Paul Cosford, regional director of public health for the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA), said: “There are important things we can all do to improve our own health.

“Smoking and obesity are the biggest areas where we can make a significant impact in terms of improving people's health.

“There are almost one million smokers in the region, 50% of who will die from smoking-related diseases.

“Obesity, especially childhood obesity is another key priority, with poor diet and low levels of physical activity playing a crucial role.

“Alcohol consumption is another area of concern in the region with the proportion of children drinking seven or more units of alcohol a week much higher than it is nationally.

“Our clinical strategy for the region Towards the best, together, sets out our priorities for tackling health inequalities and improving the health of everyone living in the region.

“Embedded in our strategy is a focus on prevention, better access to NHS services and support for people to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

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