Huge health inequalities in South Tyneside

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THIS new chart offers a damning picture of health inequalities in South Tyneside.

Tomorrow the borough council will receive a first yearly report since the local authority took control of public health services from the now-defunct Primary Care Trust.

To illustrate the scale of the problems faced, a table has been published, comparing the health of the borough to the English average.

Of the 32 categories outlined, South Tyneside is deemed “significantly worse” in no fewer than 20.

Some of the figures are especially alarming.

They reveal that 59,340 of our residents are living in deprivation – that’s 40.1 per cent of the population compared with the English average of just 20.3 per cent.

We also have 7,230 living in what is regarded as poverty, 28.1 per cent – the national average is 21.1 per cent.

Life expectancy for both men and women is also lower than average.

Meanwhile, other areas of concern include levels of obese children, women smoking in pregnancy and smoking-related deaths.

But councillors will hear a series of recommendations have been drawn up for 2014/15, aiming at tackling underlying issues.

The borough’s Health and Wellbeing Board has established a series of priority areas where action needs to be taken in the “short to medium term”.

Those include reducing the percentage of children aged four to five who are classified as obese or overweight; reducing smoking among adults with long-term health problems, and ensuring vulnerable people engage with services.

In a report to the committee, Amanda Healy, the borough’s director of public health, said the priority is to reduce health inequalities, which she described as “unjust and preventable”.

She says: “There has been recognition of the need to address lifestyle risk factors – especially smoking, alcohol use and obesity, as well as an emerging focus on wellbeing.

“There has been some in-roads to tackling these, with a reduction in levels of smoking, deaths from heart disease and related conditions.

“New threats, such as pandemic influenza and a resistance to antibiotics, have emerged. Some inequalities also remain persistent and affect local people from birth to the end of their life, including death from cancer.

“Health inequalities are aligned to social inequalities, and these must be tackled jointly.

“My role as director of public health must be to provide leadership, assurance and challenge to the local authority, to enhance its existing work and hone it even more towards reducing health inequalities.

“We are in challenging times, financially – for families, local government, the NHS and voluntary section.

“However, this makes it even more important to make public health everyone’s business and to strive for reduce health inequalities.”

Members of the borough council are to meet in the committee suite at South Shields Town Hall from 6pm tomorrow to discuss the report in public session.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaulSouth Tyneside suffering health inequalities