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Gap in life expectancy widens

2nd July 2010

The National Audit Office says the gap between average life expectancy is widening between poorer and richer areas of England despite efforts to close it.

Old Hands

Figures show that life expectancy is now 77.9 years for men and 82 years for women but in poor areas it falls to 75.8 and 80.4 years.

Overall, life expectancy has improved but has been slower where there is more deprivation and the NAO says this means that from 1995-97 to 2006-08 the life expectancy gap grew by 7% for men and 14% for women.

It wants to see better investment in tackling diet in these, more measures to help GPs address issues such as smoking and better prescribing of drugs to reduce cholesterol and control blood pressure.

Karen Taylor from the NAO said the indications were that improvements were likely but at present, health inequalities are widening.

She said: “Moving forward, there needs to be much more targeted action - with GPs and other healthcare professionals being aware of the need to actively intervene with the lowest socio-economic groups, to educate them and to provide the drugs which will improve their health outcomes.

"People in those groups are less likely to attend GPs, and also those areas still tend to be under-served with doctors."

These latest figures mean the Labour government target to reduce the difference in life expectancy by 10% by 2010 is unlikely to be met.

Meanwhile, health minister Anne Milton said the government wanted the public’s health “to be at the very heart” of all it did.

 

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