My View, Dr Nick Tupper: Closing north-south health gap

An obese woman as the waistlines of more than half of women are too big
An obese woman as the waistlines of more than half of women are too big

As I mentioned last week, I was born in the south of England and have lived in various locations across the country since.

The evidence exists - and I’ve seen it at close hand – of the health inequality divide that exists between north and south.

There are massive differences between the average ages people can expect to live in, for example, leafy Richmond in Surrey, and some of the poorer areas of Doncaster.

It’s not fair. More work needs to be done on balancing up the number of years people can expect to live and be healthy between north and south.

Where you live should not determine how long you live. Which is why I’m pleased to announce Doncaster is involved in a new health project called Well North, which is setting out to tackle this issue.

It works on the principle that how we live and the lifestyles we adopt are key reasons for around half of us dying early.

Research carried out indicates that people who reside in a poor area, often living in damp inadequate housing, who haven’t done well educationally don’t live as long or enjoy such good health as those who live in better circumstances.

Well North is a collaborative programme involving lots of NHS and other organisations. Doncaster is one of three pilot sites for phase 1 of the three year long project, which launched on April 1.

Public Health England is providing £1 million for the project in Doncaster, with funding matched locally in money and kind by Doncaster Council, NHS and other organisations.

Well North has three key aims.

* To improve the health of the poorest, fastest

* Help people, their families and communities look after their health better

* Reduce levels of unemployment, which is both a cause and effect of poor health

The specific ways and means of achieving this are currently being developed and I’ll be able to update you as Well North moves forward.

The project’s approach will be to identify ‘hot spot’ areas, where people are at risk of dying early. These will be our most disadvantaged communities where lots of people are frequently admitted to hospital in an emergency. The Well North team will go into these areas to talk to the most vulnerable people, to find out more about their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards their health.

Local people, including patients and community representatives, will be brought together to focus on local issues which prevent them from living healthier, longer lives. The team will then look at how health and other services can be wrapped around people in these communities.