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A group that brings together 27 charities is calling on the next government to fix "stark health inequalities" that are cutting thousands of lives short across the UK every year.

make health equalHealth Equals, a coalition with members including Mind, the British Red Cross, Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, say that where you’re born in the UK can cut your life short by up to 16 years because of factors like income, housing and air quality. They say that evidence shows that these health inequalities are getting worse.

The coalition launched its pre-election campaign under the hashtag #MakeHealthEqual on 16th June. To highlight the scale of current disparities in life expectancies, it staged the "youngest ever protest" in Southwark, where 50 babies represented the full spectrum of life expectancies in towns and cities from across the UK, "crying out to be the first generation in the UK that won’t experience health inequalities".

New research commissioned by Health Equals has shown that the public want the next government to make improvements to the nation’s health by focussing on better access to healthy food, more affordable and quality housing, improving air quality and greater access to green spaces.

The research revealed that people with lower paid jobs were most likely to say that their income and housing are negatively affecting their health. Those in the lowest skilled occupations were nearly 70% more likely to say that housing is impacting their health, and nearly 50% more likely to say that low income is impacting their health, compared to those in the highest skilled occupations.

The urgent appeal comes as research also found that amongst the general public low income (30%) and unhealthy diets (30%) are cited as believed to have the most negative impact on our health. When asked which of the building blocks of health people would like to see the next government take action on to improve health, 47% of adults polled selected ‘access to healthy food’ in the top three actions, closely followed by ‘more affordable, quality housing’ at 46% and 39% selected ‘improved air quality and access to nature/green spaces’.

Life expectancy by postcode

The 10 lowest postcodes:

  • FY1 73 – Blackpool
  • CH41 74 - Birkenhead
  • TS1 74 - Middlesborough
  • TS3 74 - Middlesborough
  • BD1 75 - Bradford
  • BL78 75 - Bolton
  • HU1 75 - Hull
  • HU2 75 - Hull
  • HU3 75 - Hull
  • L20 75 – Liverpool

The 10 highest postcodes

  • EC4M 90 – City of London
  • EC4N 90 – City of London
  • EC4R 90 – City of London
  • EC4V 90 – City of London
  • EC4Y 90 – City of London
  • SW1X 90 - Belgravia
  • W1H 90 - Marylebone
  • W8 90 - Kensington
  • EC3B 91 – City of London
  • SW7 91 – South Kensington

Enfield postcodes

  • EN1 - 82
  • EN2 - 83
  • EN3 - 82
  • EN4 - 85
  • EN8 - 81
  • N11 - 83
  • N13 - 84
  • N14 - 84
  • N18 - 80
  • N9 - 82
  • N21 - 86

No doubt breaking down the Enfield postcodes to the next level, eg N13 5, would reveal some starker differences in local life expectancy.

Paul McDonald, Chief Campaigns Officer, Health Equals, said: “It’s scandalous that in the UK today where you’re born can cut your life short by as much as 16 years.

“Our health is shaped by the world around us – from the money in our pockets, to quality homes that are warm and safe, stable jobs and neighbourhoods with green space and clean air. But these essential building blocks of good health aren’t available to everyone.

“While individual choices and access to health care do impact our health, evidence shows these building blocks have a far stronger impact.

“Too many parts of the UK are at risk of being ‘left behind’ without policies that support these building blocks of health and wellbeing. It’s not right but we can change it. The time is now to call on the new Government to Make Health Equal.”

Darren McGarvey, author, musician and social commentator, supporting the campaign said: “I grew up in Glasgow in poverty and have first-hand experience of homelessness and addiction. We still haven’t got the fundamental building blocks in place to support people; where you are born shouldn’t mean you could have a lower life expectancy in today’s society.

“The work that Health Equals is doing is vital – having access to things like stable jobs, clean air and safe housing should be a right not a privilege. The Government must make this a priority, and everyone can play a part in driving change by visiting healthequals.org.uk to sign the petition and ask your parliamentary candidate to commit to tackling health inequalities.”

Frank Soodeen, Director of Communications and Public Engagement at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

“The health divide in this country is cutting the lives of the poorest short. Just as a stable income is a building block of good health, a life spent living in poverty is extremely detrimental to one’s health.

“From making decisions on what food to buy to the homes people can afford to live in, poverty can and does lead to life-shortening health outcomes.

“The nation’s health will only improve when we have a plan to tackle poverty.”

Press release: "Charities call on next Government to tackle “scandalous” 16-year gap in life expectancy across the UK"

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