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First-ever health profiles for England put focus on social causes of ill health

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More deprived areas have lower life expectancy More deprived areas have lower life expectancy

It is time to ‘shift the conversation’ on healthcare, according to Public Health England (PHE) as they publish a major resource pushing for social factors to be considered more greatly in public wellbeing.

The Health Profile for England is the first document of its kind, pooling together all of England’s data on population health for the sake of tracking trends and pinning down areas where improvement is needed. It is available publicly online and is intended as a reference tool for healthcare professionals.

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Figures within the publication show that life expectancy has risen for both men and women since 2000, however the number of years at the end of life spent in poor health has also gone up proportionately. Patient data was broken down into categories of gender, as well as by level of deprivation in their local areas.

Chair of the Royal College of Nursing’s public health forum Jason Warriner said: ‘These profiles highlight that poverty and poor health go together, and without the interventions of vital public health services, problems can persist through the generations.

‘Nurses can make a difference to public health by encouraging healthy lives and reducing the burden on the NHS in the future. These profiles will help them assess and act on health outcomes within communities.

‘However that is not enough as cuts to public health budgets and staff shortages in primary care are leaving services struggling to cope. Ministers must accept they are storing up problems for the future unless they give public health the funding its needs.’

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While focus was put on key causes of death, with heart disease and strokes killing the most men, and Alzheimer’s and dementia killing the most women, PHE officials also highlighted social factors’ – including fuel poverty, unemployment and lack of education – influence on the wellbeing of patients.

Key causes of ill health included excess weight, high blood sugar, and lower back and neck pain. Diabetes made the top 10 causes of morbidity for the first time in the document.

Speaking at a launch event in Waterloo, London, on 13 July, PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie said: ‘We went to shift the conversation from health being only a matter for the health sector. We hope this morning is regarded as a very important moment in two or three years time, where our approach to public healthcare changed.

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‘Longer life is no good if those extra years are not happy and we must work in all the way we can to make sure people are living in good health for as long as they possibly can. We hope this document will be a key tool in achieving that goal.’

Health Profiles for England is available on the Public Health England website.

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