DoH failing to hit health inequalities targets

Cuts in health inequalities promised by the DoH by 2010 will not be achieved, latest official figures suggest.

One of the DoH public service agreement (PSA) targets aims is to reduce health inequalities by 10 per cent as measured by infant mortality and life expectancy at birth by 2010, compared to average levels of health inequalities in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

But infant mortality is now 17 per cent higher in socio-economic groups described as ‘routine and manual’ – meaning the father works as a bus driver, car park attendant or labourer, for example – than in the rest of the population. The gap in 1997-9 was just 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, life expectancy in the 70 spearhead local authorities in England has risen more slowly than in the rest of the country. The gap in life expectancy between England and the spearhead areas is now 13 per cent, compared to 8 per cent a decade ago.

A DoH spokeswoman admitted: ‘We are disappointed with some of these figures particularly as we have introduced the most comprehensive programme ever seen in this country to address health inequalities.

‘We need to work harder to address continuing inequalities in male and female life expectancy and infant mortality. For infant mortality, reducing the prevalence of obesity and smoking are priority actions and providing intensive support to those local areas facing the greatest challenge around health inequalities will help achieve the 2010 target.’

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