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04.05.16

New NHS Alliance calls for ‘change of mindset’ as life expectancy gap increases

An increase in the life expectancy gap for the first time since the Victorian age is a sign to tackle ‘outrageous’ health inequality levels in the UK, New NHS Alliance has said.

The call comes after a report, from the Cass Business School at City University London, found that in England and Wales, the longest-lived 5% of men who live past 30 reach age 96 on average, compared to 62.9 for the shortest-lived 10%. The gap for women is between 67.2 and 98.2 years.

The gap has grown by 1.7 years since 1993 for men, the first time it has grown since the 1870s, and has not shrunk since 2005 for women.

Professor Les Mayhew, one of the report’s authors, said: “The research blames the widening disparity on poor life style choices rather than ambient risks which were prevalent in the first half of the 20th Century.

“Key among these life style choices are smoking, drinking and poor diet – choices that are more likely to be made by the poorest in society.”

However, New NHS Alliance said that the figures were a sign for the NHS and public health services to look at the factors which increase ill health among the poorest in society.

Mark Spencer, co-chair of New NHS Alliance, said: “The time may have come to move the conversation from the elderly to the poor.  We should be outraged at the levels of health inequality in our society.”

Merron Simpson, chief executive of New NHS Alliance, said: “If we are to truly address the issue, it will be important to look at what lies behind the 'choices' people make, rather than to blame them for making the choices they do", citing Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s recent appeal to Parliament for more action on the causes of health inequality.

She added that “both the NHS and public health services need a complete change of mindset, shifting from treating illness to creating wellness”.

Public Health England's strategic plan for this year includes new initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become an NHE columnist? If so, click here.

(Image c. Kirsty Wigglesworth from AP/Press Association Images)

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