Sunderland among worse cities in ‘early death’ league table

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YOU are more likely to die early if you live in Sunderland.

New figures today reveal the city ranks 132nd out of 150 for premature deaths in the country.

Major killers like heart disease, cancer and strokes remain a significant problem across Wearside, despite a number of health initiatives designed to tackle them.

Out of 150 local authorities, Sunderland ranks 136th for early deaths from cancer, 133rd for lung cancer, 117th for liver disease, and 116th for heart attacks and strokes.

The city is the worst placed in a poor showing for the North East, with Newcastle ranked 103rd, South Tyneside 129th, Gateshead 123rd, County Durham 105th and North Tyneside 97th.

The figures mean the Sunderland is categorised among the “worst” in England with 3,180 premature deaths between 2009 and 2011.

The statistics come as Public Health England (PHE) today launches its Longer Lives website which reveals the significant variations in early death rates.

Professor Paul Johnstone, regional director for PHE in the North of England, said: “It’s important to be clear that there are lots of reasons why discrepancies in levels of health exist.

“Lots of issues like being in a job, living in safe housing, good town planning with green spaces and leisure areas and access to good education all affect how healthy people are.

“One of the opportunities in moving public health from the NHS into local government, is to help tackle these wider issues.

“Not everything can be done locally either. Job creation, regeneration and policies on childhood poverty, alcohol consumption, tobacco, educational attainment and promoting healthy eating are also the responsibility of national Government.” Sunderland’s Child Poverty Needs Assessment recently identified a correlation between low income and poor health.

With 45 per cent of Sunderland residents living within 20 per cent of the most disadvantaged areas across England, rates of poor health still remain a major issue to be tackled.

Sunderland has a number of initiatives in place – from exercise on prescription to stop smoking services – in an effort to bring the numbers down.

Yesterday, the Echo revealed some of the city’s most deprived areas could receive £50million in lottery funding to improve the health prospects of its young people. Hendon, Millfield, Pallion, Redhill and Southwick have been identified as wards that would most benefit from the money.

Dr Roberta Marshall, director of the PHE North East Centre, said: “Longer Lives presents a clear picture of health in local areas – where it is good and where there is more to do – so everyone involved can consider and agree how to make improvements from a common basis of the same information.

“The evidence is clear – a person’s likelihood of dying prematurely from one of the top four killers varies widely between local authorities due to differences in risk factors, such as obesity, alcohol and smoking and that these are closely linked to economic deprivation.”

Speaking about the Longer Lives figures, Nonnie Crawford, director of Public Health for Sunderland said: “This is a useful report which highlights the stark variation in premature death rates across England.

“Clearly we still have a long way to go in reducing premature deaths in Sunderland, many of which are due to one of the four big killers. The good news is that there are ways that people can reduce their risk of developing these conditions – such as stopping smoking or reducing alcohol intake.

“For many decades, smoking rates in Sunderland were significantly higher than in other parts of England, with almost a third of the adult population being smokers. We’ve made real progress in this area and the gap between Sunderland and England smoking rates is far narrower now.

“However, although the number of smokers in Sunderland has reduced over recent years, it may be several more years until we see an improvement in smoking related health outcomes.”

Councillor John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health for Sunderland said: “While there’s still a long way to go, there has been significant progress in tackling killers like smoking.

“Although smoking is the single biggest risk factor in a number of causes of premature death, other factors such as poor diet and excess alcohol intake are also important. Alcohol is known to increase the risk of several types of cancer.

“Alcohol now is becoming a public health priority of the scale that smoking was 10 years ago. I’m confident that by working together we will be able to deliver positive outcomes around alcohol misuse.”