Life inequality is target of new health boss

PUBLISHED: 14:01 29 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:39 25 May 2010

NARROWING the gap in life expectancy between the deprived and affluent in North Somerset is the target of a newly-appointed health expert.

NARROWING the gap in life expectancy between the deprived and affluent in North Somerset is the target of a newly-appointed health expert.

Becky Pollard, NHS North Somerset's interim public health director, said she 'desperately' wants to reduce health inequality in the town.

Currently the difference in residents' life expectancy ranges up to eight years depending on where they live in the district.

In Weston's south and central wards men and women live an average of up to 74 and 78 years old respectively, compared to 82 and 84 years old for people in Nailsea.

Mrs Pollard said: "Clearly there are pockets of deprivation where a complex range of factors including joblessness, homelessness and poor education are affecting people's life expectancy.

"It is the 21st century and we need to be able to address this by looking at the whole picture and finding ways to narrow such a health inequality.

"By working with partners we are desperate to help those people by way of education and promoting exercise and good health."

Related to the length of life expectancy is statistics which reveal up to 40 per cent of people in deprived areas smoke, compared to 14 per cent in more affluent parts of the district.

Mrs Pollard said: "Reducing the number of people smoking is one clear aim, as it is promoting physical activity through the building of parks and encouraging people to eat their five fruit and vegetable portions a day.

"These are all methods being undertaken with our partners to improve people's health and minimise risks such as obesity, alcoholism and premature deaths."

A public health report, published yesterday (Wed), revealed the trust was winning on childhood obesity by stabilising the once growing trend.

But the report also showed a rise in alcohol-related hospital admissions to 1,544 people per 100,000 population last year.

It also revealed 122 children per 100,000 population suffered deliberate and unintentional injuries.

Mrs Pollard said: "We hope to tackle alcohol abuse by raising awareness, working with young people through schools and with law enforcement officers to stop underage people getting served.

"I also have a hunch that the number of children injured may be linked to alcohol, but that is something we still need to investigate."

Other aims Mrs Pollard has set out for the district are to continue stroke awareness, encourage breast feeding past two weeks and improve immunisation of children.

Mrs Pollard, who is also a public health consultant for South West NHS, is set to stay in the post until September when a permanent replacement for Max Kammerling is appointed.

She said: "I'm extremely happy to be here and am really enthusiastic about the work ahead.

"This is about strengthening the work Max has done and continuing work on schemes such as reducing health inequality.

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