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'Shocking' local variation in early death rates

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A 'shocking' local variation in early death rates has been exposed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to drive public awareness and boost council and NHS action to tackle public health problems.

The figures, published this morning, are part of Longer Lives, a Public Health England (PHE) website which allows local people to see easily how their areas perform on early deaths from the major four killers, like heart disease and cancer, and how this varies across the country.

Using a traffic-light rating system, it ranks areas showing those performing above average in tackling avoidable deaths as green, and exposes the worst that are lagging behind and need to do more as red.

The website contains a range of data that, for the first time, allows people to easily compare an area's mortality performance against those with similar populations, incomes and levels of health.

It shows that the north of England has a higher risk of early death than the south, but when comparing areas of a similar socio-economic status it reveals a more complex picture. For example, Rotherham and Redcar & Cleveland have the best rates of reducing premature deaths amongst those local authorities with the greatest levels of deprivation, whilst areas such as Bracknell Forest and Central Bedfordshire have the worst rates of premature mortality amongst the most affluent local authorities. Some areas do well on most measures, however some have concerning scores for just one or two conditions.

The data and website will provide local areas with information to help them understand their own position and better target efforts to improve the public's health.

Mr Hunt said: 'This shocking variation in early and unnecessary deaths means people's lives are needlessly cut short, and that cannot continue unchecked.

'I want areas to use the data released today to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 30,000 lives a year by 2020.

'Being more transparent will also allow professionals and the public to see how their local area is performing over time, allowing them to intervene and make improvements happen.'

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