Pledge to reduce health inequalities

HEALTH chiefs have vowed to tackle inequalities after it emerged the life expectancy gap in Suffolk was growing.

HEALTH chiefs have vowed to tackle inequalities after it emerged the life expectancy gap in Suffolk was growing.

In 2008 those in the most affluent parts of the county could expect to live 12.3 years longer than those in the most deprived, a jump of 20 per cent from the 10.2 year difference in 2006.

NHS Suffolk, which buys and plans healthcare in the county, has pledged to make reversing the trend one of its top priorities.

Dr Peter Bradley, the county's director of public health, said: “If people live in certain wards they are living on average to their early 80s, while in other wards it is their late 60s.

“More worryingly, this gap seems to be increasing. It is something we are very concerned about.

“The increase in inequalities is a trend that we have noticed particularly in the last three or four years.

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“And there is certainly no evidence that in the last ten years the gap has got any better.

“It is in keeping with the trends in the UK generally.

“It is partly to do with lifestyle choices people are making and partly to do with life expectancy increasing in general, but more for those in wealthy areas.

“Probably the biggest reason is that people who are better off are more likely to have given up smoking and people who are less well off haven't given up in the same numbers.”

To combat the health inequalities NHS Suffolk has set up numerous projects to target specific groups which have lower life expectancies.

Dr Bradley said the emphasis on reducing inequalities had only moved up the health agenda in the past few years, but NHS Suffolk was now determined to bring the difference down from 12.3 years as quickly as possible.

He added: “It is achievable because the model we are using is based on experience from very poor areas of the country where they have targeted specific areas and had success.

“I think we will have success but we can't achieve it overnight.”

What should be done to tackle health inequalities? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

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