Watershed moment for widening health inequalities to most vulnerable in the North

Yorkshire’s most vulnerable citizens are facing widening health inequalities due to a lack of sustained long-term investment in the North, senior health leaders have warned.

As part of a special investigation by The Yorkshire Post, communities across the region are throwing their collective arms around their most vulnerable with innovative projects designed to tackle the worst of our health inequalities - showing the vital role that charities and community groups play to the region’s social fabric when we need them the most.

Initiatives across Yorkshire, often invisible alongside the state infrastructure, who have in many places made the difference between individuals suffering and communities being resilient during these unprecedented times, have spoken out about coping with demand because of the challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

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You can read the full investigation here. The Government has been urged to make good on its “levelling-up” commitment as an already-stretched NHS and social care system is set to face further pressure from a hidden burden of future disease and early deaths.

The Bradford organisation NAFS delivers a health programme specifically for BAME women and girls in the most deprived areas of the city. Pictured members of the same household taking part in a Zumba class, lead by Nadera Amini. James Hardisty/JPIMedia Resell

New analysis for the Yorkshire Post from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) showed female life expectancy at birth fell in the region over the last three years - while the English average rose.

While male life expectancy has risen since 2015 - it has done so by roughly half of the equivalent figure for England. At the same time, obesity and diabetes rates have risen higher than in the country as a whole.

The North Health Science Alliance chief executive Dr Séamus O'Neill said: “For years there has been rhetoric in Government about tackling health inequalities. It is time that the action matches the rhetoric. This has been 50 or 60 years in creation, it is going to take at least that long to address these issues.

Sheffield City Region Mayor and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said devolved investment could be used to combat generations of structural health inequalities in the North.

Mr Jarvis said: “Levelling up isn’t just about the economy, it has to be about the levelling up when it comes to health inequalities.

“There are very few silver bullets, and essentially what we need is a long-term programme of sustained investment within the health and well being of the population.”

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