Bedford has one of the largest health inequality gaps in the country – a new damning report has revealed.
The report called Inequalities in Bedford Borough, carried out by the director of public health Muriel Scott, has shown that people living in the most deprived areas of Bedford have a lower life expectancy than people living in the rest of the town.
The research was carried out between people living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of the town and the less deprived areas, ahead of the authority taking on responsibility for health.
It revealed that Bedford is among the worst 20 per cent of local authorities for health inequalities, with women living in the most deprived areas living nine years less, and men 11 years less than the other 80 per cent of the town.
The Labour group of Bedford Borough Council has slammed the results branding them ‘shocking’ and a ‘wake-up call’.
The party has said it is alarmed at the inequalities the results have shown for children, with fewer than four in every ten children from deprived areas in Bedford achieving a good level of physical development at five years old.
And it believes that the Government’s recent decision to cap maternity pay, child benefit and tax credits at one per cent will only make the problem worse.
The issue was due to be discussed by Bedford Borough Council last night (Wednesday).
The Labour group will now be campaiging heavily to provide children living in deprived area with more help and support in an attempt to close the gap.
Labour spokesman for health Councillor Colleen Atkins said: “This report on children’s health inequalities is extremely worrying.
“It is known that children from low-income families can suffer disproportionately with health and development.
“It is simply beyond belief that the Government has made a callous decision that will hit expectant mothers and young children with a cut in their income.
“Some families will be hit extremely hard, especially with food inflation running at nearly five per cent.
“Everyone recognises that tough decisions need to be made to reduce the deficit, but targeting children in poverty while giving tax cuts to millionaires speaks volumes about the Government’s values”.
The reports has found that the significant contributors to the life expectancy gap are circulatory diseases, cancers and respiratory diseases.
The data that has been compiled suggests that inequalities among the 20 per cent most deprived and the 80 per cent least deprived is for low birth weight, babies living with a smoker, child obesity, teenage pregnancy, education attainment at Key Stage 4, unemployment and smoking prevalence.
A spokesman for Bedford Borough Council said: “Currently, Primary Care Trusts are responsible for public health in Bedford Borough.
“Bedford Borough Council looks forward to taking on responsibility for public health from April 2013, and being able to impact positively on public health issues, and in particular the clear health inequalities between different communities within the borough.
“Bedford Borough Council has an excellent record of targeting resources to frontline services and on the basis of need, and we look forward to doing so using the data and evidence gathered when we take on the responsibility for Public Health from April 2013.”
The report was presented to Bedford Borough Council by NHS Bedfordshire. It gives an overview of health and health inequalities across Bedford Borough, which highlights both improvements and challenges.
It also found that in general the health of people in Bedford Borough is good, and similar to the average in England.
The spokessman added: “We are committed to improving the health of these residents and we are working in partnership with a range of organisations, including the NHS and the voluntary sector, to provide evidence based interventions and services, based on an accurate assessment of the needs of our community.”
The council now plans to put together an action plan to work towards the recommendations in the report.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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