19/11/2004

'Spearhead' trusts to tackle health inequality

New initiatives such as health trainers and enhanced Stop Smoking Services are to be piloted in some of the most health deprived areas in England, it has been announced today.

The 88 'spearhead' Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) will be the first to get funding for health trainers, improved smoking cessation services and school nurses under proposals contained in the White Paper on Public Health.

The pilots have been drawn up to tackle "significant differences" in the health of people which reflects on the area in which they live.

Speaking at a health centre in Canning Town, Health Secretary John Reid said: "I travelled to this health centre by tube, from Westminster to Canning Town. For each of the eight stops in the journey life expectancy in the area drops year per station. Life expectancy is eight years less in Canning Town than in Westminster. That is a pattern that is replicated across the country with some areas having the same mortality rates as the national average in the 1950s. This will only be tackled if we focus action on health in those areas that need it most."

The group of 88 Primary Care Trusts covering 70 Local Authority areas were identified using information on deprivation, mortality from cancer and heart disease as well as life expectancy to determine the areas that face the greatest health challenges.

As well as tackling particular health issues like smoking, obesity, poor housing, accidents and mental health, the spearhead trusts will attempt to change how services are delivered to reduce barriers and improve health choices.

The department's Public Service Agreements, published this summer, also set targets to narrow the geographical inequalities in life expectancy, cancer and heart disease mortality by 2010.

(gmcg/sp)

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