Special report (part 1): Northamptonshire’s shocking health inequalities
The latest piece in our Levelling Up series looks at the health inequalities of the county’s ‘left behind’ communities
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By Natalie Bloomer and Sarah Ward
When the prime minister gave his much-hyped Levelling Up speech in July, one of the first inequalities he highlighted was life expectancy.
“It is an outrage that a man in Glasgow or Blackpool has an average of ten years less on this planet than someone growing up in Hart in Hampshire or in Rutland. Why do the people of Rutland live to such prodigious ages? Who knows – but they do,” he said.
But health inequalities such as this do not just exist between one town or city and another hundreds of miles away in another part of the country. They exist among people living within the same towns, in neighbourhoods within walking distance from one another.
NN Journal’s year-long project looking at Northamptonshire’s five ‘left behind’ areas has already highlighted some of the social issues faced by these communities. Today we dig into the data which exposes the stark inequalities in health between people living in these places and those in neighbouring wards.
The five areas are Kingswood/Hazel Leys in Corby, Avondale Grange in Kettering, Queensway in Wellingborough, Talavera and Kings Heath in Northampton.
Public Health England uses a number of indicators to create a health profile for every ward in the country. Each indicator is then shown as being either in line with the England average (marked in yellow), significantly worse (marked in red) or significantly better (marked in green). These include things like poverty levels, deaths from various causes, hospital admissions and incidence of cancer.
Life expectancy is a key health indicator. For 100 years it has steadily increased across the country, however recently that increase has come to a halt. According to the Marmot review into health equity in England, people living in more deprived areas “have seen their life expectancy stalling, even declining for some, while it has increased in more advantaged areas.”
“If health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped improving. When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish,” the report says.
“Health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of health,” it says.
Across all five of Northamptonshire’s ‘left behind’ areas, income deprivation, child poverty and the number of older people living in deprivation is significantly worse than the England average. So too is the number of emergency hospital admissions from all causes, hospital stays for self harm and excess deaths from all causes.
When the health profiles of each area are compared with a neighbouring ward the inequalities that persist here are clear to see. In the new year the second part of this special report will focus on the worst rated health indicators for each area and ask what is being done to improve things.
Kingswood and Hazel Leys compared to Oakley South
A man living in Kingswood and Hazel Leys in Corby can expect to live to 74, a staggering ten years less than a man living in the wealthier nearby ward of Oakley South who is expected to reach 84 years old. For women the gap is not as big at around seven years, but their life expectancy of 79 is still significantly worse than the England average of 83.
Of all of the five left behind areas in Northamptonshire, Kingswood and Hazel Leys has the highest number of health indicators rated as being significantly worse with 25 of the 36 marked red and just one marked as significantly better.
In comparison, Oakley South has just one indicator rated as significantly worse than the England average and 17 shown as significantly better.
Avondale Grange compared to Ise Lodge
Men and women in Avondale Grange in Kettering are expected to live three to four years less than those in neighbouring ward Ise Lodge. Men can expect to reach 77 and women 80 in Avondale Grange compared to 81 and 84 in Ise Lodge.
Just under half of the health indicators for Avondale Grange were significantly worse than the England average with 17 of the 36 marked red. Not a single one was significantly better.
This compares to just one indicator in Ise Lodge being significantly worse than the England average and 15 rated as significantly better.
Queensway compared to Great Doddington and Wilby
A woman living in Queensway in Wellingborough can expect to live nine years less than one living in the wealthier ward of Great Doddington and Wilby with a life expectancy of 80 and 89 respectively. Men in Queensway are expected to live until 75 compared to 83 in the neighbouring area.
Of the five ‘left behind’ areas, Queensway has the second highest number of health indicators that are significantly worse than the England average with 24 of the 36 marked red and just one rated as significantly better.
In Great Doddington and Wilby there were no indicators at all marked as significantly worse and 11 as significantly better.
Kings Heath compared to New Duston
With a life expectancy of 81, women in Kings Heath in Northampton are likely to live 8 years less than those in nearby New Duston who can expect to live to 89. For men the gap is 6 years with those living in Kings Heath expected to reach 75 years old compared to 81 in New Duston.
There are 17 health indicators that are rated as significantly worse than the England average with none of 36 indicators shown as significantly better. Kings Heath also has some of the worse performing indicators out of all of the five ‘left behind’ areas.
This compares to just two indicators rated as significantly worse in New Duston and 21 shown as significantly better.
Talavera compared to Boothville
The life expectancy gap between these two wards is not as big as the other areas we have looked at with men expected to live to 78 in Talavera compared to 79 in Boothville. For women it’s 80 and 82 respectively.
The inequalities between these areas is more evident when looking at the other health indicators. 18 of them are marked as significantly worse than the England average while just one showing as significantly better.
In Boothville, just two of the indicators are significantly worse and nine are significantly better.
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