07/07/2010

'Healthy' Britain Surveyed

A snapshot of health for each local area comparing key statistics such as life expectancy, deprivation and early deaths from stroke and heart disease has been published this week by the Department of Health.

The health profiles will help local authorities, GPs and health services to target their resources effectively to improve the overall health and wellbeing of those who need it most.

The collated summaries show that there are clear variations in health across the country with key findings including that life expectancy for men and women continues to increase and it also showed that early deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer continue to fall.

However, on the minus side, it fond that the highest rates of alcohol-related hospital admissions are found in urban areas of the North East and North West, including Liverpool, Newcastle and Middlesborough and there are higher rates of malignant melanoma skin cancer in the South West and South East, including Plymouth, Weymouth and Portland, and Oxfordshire.

This vital information will support the Government's focus on prioritising prevention in public health issues and empowering clinicians to make decisions at a local level. Patients will be at the heart of local services in order to improve their overall health outcomes and make the demands of the NHS more sustainable.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: "These figures are an excellent way for people to find out more about the health of their local population.

"It is great to see that we are living longer and that early deaths from heart disease, strokes and cancer are decreasing," she said.

"But the differences in health from area to area are still too varied. Everyone should have the same chance to have a healthy life no matter where they live.

"I hope that this information will help clinicians, local authorities and community groups to think about what needs to be done to help make that change happen."

The profiles reveal different health priorities for each area, demonstrated using a 'spine chart'.

The spine chart shows how one area compares to all other areas in England, through a set of 32 health measures.

Each area profile also includes a text summary highlighting priorities for the area, and interactive maps and charts with information about local people's health.

South East Public Health Observatory Director, Dr Alison Hill said: "Health Profiles give a picture of local people's health for every area in England.

"They help to start community discussions about what services are needed and how they should be provided.

"The profiles encourage people to engage with public health issues by providing complex health related data in a clear, accessible format," she said.

Now in their fifth year, Health Profiles will help highlight inequalities by identifying some of the key factors that cause them – for example, adults who smoke, GCSE achievement, and child obesity.

Last year, Nottingham City Council used Health Profiles to alert councillors and MPs to the challenges within their area and adapt training programmes for their local partners.

Other examples of where these have been used across the country include highlighting the need for smoking cessation services; alcohol harm reduction; provision of parenting support; and prioritising issues for local councillors.

(BMcC/GK)

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