Latest Health Inequalities Annual Report Is Essential Reading - Nesbitt

Health Minister, Mike Nesbitt, has said that the newest Health Inequalities Annual Report is essential reading for all sectors of public life in Northern Ireland.

The newly published document provides the latest details of persistent disparities between the most and least deprived areas.

Mr Nesbitt commented: "Health inequalities represent one of my main priority areas as Minister. I am also clear that this a key issue for all parts of Government, as health inequalities are a symptom and a reflection of wider societal inequalities. The 2024 Health Inequalities Annual Report should be essential reading for everyone across Government and public life. Its findings should be a challenge to us all. I intend to deliver targeted initiatives in this area in the coming months and to facilitate and encourage an effective cross-Governmental approach."

The 2024 report's regional analysis focuses on variances between Northern Ireland's top 20% most deprived areas and its bottom 20% least deprived regions. Key highlights comprise:

• In 2020-22, males in the most deprived areas live on average 7.2 fewer years than males in the least deprived areas. The gap for females was 4.8 years. There have been no notable changes in life expectancy deprivation gaps for males or females over the last five years.

• Higher mortality from cancer, circulatory disease, and accidental deaths combined, contributed to just over half of the male life expectancy deprivation gap. There were also notable contributions from deaths due to COVID-19 and suicide.

• Mortality from cancer was the largest single contributor to the female life expectancy deprivation gap, more than half of which was due to lung cancer.
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• The gap between the most and least deprived areas in Healthy Life Expectancy (average number of years a person can expect to live in good health) stood at 12.2 years for males and 14.2 years for females in 2020-22. Similar to life expectancy, the gaps have remained similar over the last five years.

• Preventable mortality in 2018-22 in the most deprived areas was three times the rate in the least deprived areas with the gap widening slightly over the last five years.

• In 2020-22 the suicide mortality rate in the most deprived areas was more than two and a half times the rate observed in the least deprived areas.

• Alcohol and drug related indicators continue to show some of the largest health inequalities monitored in NI. The deprivation gap for drug misuse deaths showed the largest inequality gap of all indicators, where mortality in the most deprived areas was almost six times that of the least deprived.

• The inequality gaps between the most and least deprived areas for both the under 20 teenage birth rate and the proportion of mothers reporting smoking remain very large; with rates in the most deprived areas being over five times that in the least deprived in 2022.

• In 2022/23 the percentage of primary 1 pupils in the most deprived areas affected by obesity was more than double the proportion in the least deprived areas.

• Of the 52 indicators analysed, 35 indicators had inequality gaps that showed no notable change over the last five years.

• Over the same period, inequality gaps narrowed for eleven of the 52 indicators, including male and female disability free life expectancies, lung cancer mortality, and breastfeeding on discharge. However, inequality gaps widened for six indicators, including preventable mortality, smoking attributable mortality and deaths due to drug misuse.

By applying modelling from England to Northern Ireland, it's estimated that health inequalities incur costs of up to £1.7 billion annually. These expenses stem from various factors, including health service expenditures, lost productivity and welfare costs.

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