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Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

New Actions to Address the North-South Health Divide

(15 September 2014)

Professor Clare Bambra

Professor Clare Bambra

‘Due North: the report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North’, is the outcome of an independent inquiry, commissioned by Public Health England, to identify actions that can reduce the gap in health between the north and south of England and between different socioeconomic groups within the north.

The north south health divide is such that a baby girl born in Manchester can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in Richmond in London.

The report suggests that the root causes of this are the same across the country - differences between groups in poverty, power and resources needed for health. It is the severity of these causes that is greater in the north and results in the north having persistently poorer health than the rest of England.

Professor Clare Bambra from the Department of Geography and Inquiry panel member, said: "The differences in people’s health in the north compared to other parts of the UK are totally unacceptable. Without a radical change to the current approach to health inequality, we are likely to see things getting worse".

The report highlights how northern agencies can make the best use of more devolved powers to do things more effectively and equitably. It also sets out recommendations for central government - where there is currently the most power to influence the determinants of health.

These include the provision of high quality universal early years education and childcare; to promote a living wage; to use their joint spending power to promote good employment; and to improve the quality and affordability of housing.

The report also examines the damaging impact of austerity and welfare reform on health in the north.

Professor Bambra said: "Austerity, unemployment and welfare reform have hit the north and the poorest the hardest. If we are to improve public health this needs to stop.

"We need urgent action to make sure that money is spent on measures which we know can effectively reduce health inequalities.

"This means we need to protect and prioritise spending on children in early years and allocate a greater share of NHS and economic resources to the places that need it most. Another vital element is a national industrial strategy that reduces inequalities between regions by investing in sectors that can provide sustainable, high quality jobs in disadvantaged areas".

The Inquiry brought together expertise from people working across the North of England from universities, local government, the NHS and the voluntary and community sector. Firstly it set out what organisations and communities in the North can do for themselves to address these unfair differences in health. Secondly it highlights what central government needs to do.

'Due North: the report of the Inquiry on Health Equity for the North' is published on 15th September, 2014.