Life expectancy in more deprived parts of York has declined for the first time in generations and health inequalities across the city “are probably getting worse”, according to a public health expert.
The assumption that York is an affluent city masks large pockets of deprivation and poor health outcomes that are “avoidable, unfair and systematic”.
So says a report from Peter Roderick, who works with both City of York Council and the Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The June document, which has been briefed to councillors, shows that people living in the most deprived parts of York:
- die ten years earlier than those living in the richest areas;
- suffer more with multiple long-term health conditions;
- and go to accident and emergency departments more often.
Similar to elsewhere in the country, smoking and obesity are two of York’s biggest issues.
‘Red flags’ for York are the relative rates of mental health issues in children and young people, the rate of suicide and self harm and alcohol related deaths.
Air pollution, lower than average wages and housing affordability are highlighted as three wider determinants of ill health in the city.
The report concludes that health inequalities are “probably getting worse” and are “mainly driven by preventable disease…caused by a web of complex social, behavioural and environmental factors, many of which are outside the locus of control of the individual and should therefore not be laid at their door”.
Poverty and health
Labour group leader Cllr Claire Douglas said the report’s findings needed to inform the council’s economic strategy for 2022 – 2030, which is currently in draft form.
Speaking in a meeting about economy and strategic planning, she said: “The largest portion of that life expectancy gap (between rich and poor areas) is proven to be economic.
“Forty per cent of health inequalities are caused by low pay, low household incomes and poverty – a larger portion than can be put down to health behaviours and access to health services.
“And yet I noticed there is no mention of health inequalities and the economic causes in this strategy. Surely an inclusive, sustainable economy that provides opportunity for all must take this into account?”
The council’s director of economy, regeneration and housing, Tracey Carter, agreed that the relationship between poverty, health inequalities and the economy were “really important”.
Ms Carter said that strategy already contained ideas on increasing wage levels, helping people into work and developing skills.
“I think there is probably room for improvement in terms of how we draw that theme out and make it more clear,” she added.