Shocking research published in a major new report has revealed that people living in England’s poorest areas die seven years younger on average than those in its richest communities.
The Marmot review shows that although life expectancy has risen overall in both poor and rich areas, distinct inequalities remain.
Along with a lower life expectancy the report also finds that for poorer areas a greater proportion of people’s lives will be spent unwell.
The government-commissioned report, published by epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot of University College London, estimates that up to 202,000 early deaths could be avoided if the NHS spent more to tackle these inequalities.
He also called for an increase in minimum wage to allow everyone the opportunity for a healthier lifestyle.
Professor David Hunter, an expert in health management at Durham University, said: “There are few votes in health inequalities. There must be a real political commitment at all levels because a fairer society will benefit all.
“As politicians of all hues become increasingly preoccupied with securing electoral advantage, it is questionable whether this important report will receive the careful and considered attention it deserves.”
The report warns that doing nothing to tackle these inequalities would cost the economy more, accounting for £33 billion spent every year.
It calls for NHS spending on preventing illness with more money going to initiatives such as helping people to stop smoking.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “To avoid missing the window of opportunity in a child’s early years, midwifery, health visiting, school and community nursing are vital and need significant and consistent investment.”
Professor Mike Kelly, of the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence, also argues there needs to be a shift away from medical interventions that treat existing illnesses to those preventing them developing in the first place.
President of the UK Faculty of Public Health Professor Alan Maryon-Davis added: “This report is not just about fairness and opportunity – essential though these things are. It is also about hard-nosed investment in preventive strategies that really pay off.”
Health Secretary Andy Burnham welcomed the report and agreed that more work is needed to tackle inequalities.
“It’s not right that where we live can dictate the state of our health,” he said. But many are asking the government exactly what it plans to do.
Haringey TUC chairman Keith Flett, whose area includes some of the poorest areas in the country including Tottenham’s Northumberland Park, said: “The really big question posed is what is going to be done about decent jobs and wages and the impact this has on people’s lives?”
He added that people in Tottenham were literally dying because they were poor.
Taken from Morning Star