Close the health gap between rich and poor, charity urges

The Centre for Ageing Better is urging the government to recommit to closing the health gap between rich and poor and take action on ‘unacceptable’ health inequalities.

New analysis from the charity, ahead of government’s response to the consultation on its prevention green paper later this month, shows unacceptable inequalities in how long, and how healthily, babies born today in different parts of England can expect to live. Of the ten areas where life expectancy is highest, six are in London and three are in the South East.

Ageing Better looked at three factors: life expectancy, healthy life expectancy and disability-free life expectancy. It found that a boy born in Blackpool is set to live nine years less than a boy born in Westminster, whilst a girl born in Camden can expect to live almost eight years longer than one born in Blackpool.

For healthy life expectancy, a measure of how long people spend in ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health, the gaps are even wider, with boys born in Richmond-upon-Thames set to enjoy almost 20 more years of good health than those born in Blackpool. For girls, the biggest gap in healthy life expectancy is between Nottingham and Wokingham, with a difference of 18 years.

The figures also show that the majority of babies born today could be on track for a retirement spent in ill-health and disability.

Anna Dixon, chief executive for the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Most of us are set to live many years longer than our parents or grandparents – and these extra years are a wonderful gift. But the opportunity of longer lives isn’t being shared equally, especially when it comes to how healthily we spend our later lives.

“These figures show that nowhere outside London and the South East can both boys and girls born today expect to reach their state pension age without a disability. We will be letting down today’s children if we fail to improve their prospects for a healthy later life.

“The deep inequalities this data reveals are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. The government must recommit to the goal of closing the gap in disability-free life expectancy between the richest and poorest by 2035, and take the action needed to make good on that commitment. This doesn’t just require more funding for health services but investment in improved housing, better quality work and communities, as well as further regulation on tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy foods.”