Ipswich/Suffolk: Vast health gap a ‘major challenge’

PEOPLE living in the most deprived parts of Ipswich are up to three times more likely to die from heart disease than those from more affluent areas of Suffolk.

The stark statistic – uncovered following an Ipswich Star investigation – highlights the vast health inequalities between the county’s rich and poor.

In one grim snapshot, the heart disease death rate of those living in Ipswich’s Bridge ward is nearly 200 per cent higher than residents just four miles down the road in west Kesgrave.

The figures highlight the importance of the success of the Star’s Have a Heart campaign to secure funding for a new specialist heart centre at Ipswich Hospital.

The campaign, fought with residents, Heartbeat East Suffolk and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, was won earlier this year when the government made �5million available to create a new non-emergency unit at the Heath Road trust.

Dr David Kanka, deputy director of public health at NHS Suffolk said “substantial inequalities” disadvantaging those living in deprived areas - including Bridge, Westgate and Alexandra wards in Ipswich - were a “major challenge” for health bosses.

Figures from the Suffolk Observatory reveal that in Suffolk around 164 people per 100,000 die of cardiovascular disease - which includes heart disease and stroke.

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However, in Ipswich that number rises to 183 per 100,000 - the highest across the county.

Within the town itself the number of people dying from cardiovascular disease in Bridge ward - ranked the fourth most deprived part of Ipswich - is a staggering 290 per 100,000 compared to neighbouring Stoke Park where the figure is the lowest in the town at 116.

Meanwhile in Kesgrave West 97 people per 100,000 die as a result of the condition.

Also ranked among the most at-risk areas in Ipswich include Alexandra ward with 225 deaths per 100,000 people, Whitehouse with 211 and Gipping with 209.

At the other end of the scale are Bixley ward with 125 deaths per 100,000, Rushmere and St John’s each with 150.

Dr Kanka said in the last decade there has been some good news with health bosses making great strides in reducing the number of deaths relating to heart disease.

He said death rates from coronary disease have fallen by more than 40pc overall in Suffolk in that time.

“This has resulted in 300 fewer deaths from heart disease in 2007 compared with 1997, mirroring the national trend,” he added.

“The trend in Suffolk has consistently been lower than the national rate.

“But it [heart disease] has still killed too many people - three people in Suffolk die everyday from the disease so it is a major cause of what we call premature deaths, that is death in people aged under 75 years old.

“There is good evidence that much heart disease is preventable – probably about a fifth of all deaths relating to heart disease are linked to smoking.”

Citing lifestyle changes as key to tackling the issues, Dr Kanka said one of the reasons for the inequality is the fact those living in more deprived areas have been “slower to make lifestyle changes”.

“Smoking rates in deprived areas are 22 pc, compared with 16 pc in more affluent neighbourhoods,” he said. “This is not something that has happened overnight, it has been happening over a period of time.”