Headlines: August 24th, 2007

An online tool has been launched to help local authorities and health services to improve life expectancy in deprived areas. The Health Inequalities Intervention Tool is an interactive website designed to be used as part of a wider strategy to deal with inequalities. The site will be used by Primary Care Trusts, Practice-Based Commissioners and local authorities in Spearhead areas to gain understanding of the impact of simple, effective, evidence-based measures can have on the life expectancy gap in their areas. It contains both national and local information on current life expectancy for each of the 70 Spearhead areas, and the gap between life expectancy in those areas and the rest of England.

The tool details those diseases which are seen as causing low life expectancy in each of the areas and has a “ready reckoner” for high impact interventions that could narrow the local gap quickly. These include stopping smoking, reducing infant deaths, and giving statins and blood pressure drugs to people whose cardiovascular disease has not yet been diagnosed. It will also assist PCTs in finding people who need treatment, calculating the number of local people who may need treatment for cardiovascular disease and then encouraging them to visit their GP or other health services, which could have a significant impact on both their own life expectancy, and on the average expectancy within their area.

Extending life expectancy is a key element of the Department of Health’s Public Service Agreement target to reduce health inequalities by 10 per cent by 2010. While it is improving across the country the gap between expectancy in the Spearhead areas and in the general population is getting wider.

Dr Bobbie Jacobson, Vice-chair of the Association of Public Health Observatories said the tool was the first of its kind to provide hard-edged, local evidence to planners and commissioners, on the causes of their life expectancy gap and how it could be reduced.