Revealed: Improved diagnosis for health

The number of pregnant women smoking at the time of delivery is on the decline

The number of pregnant women smoking at the time of delivery is on the decline

Wigan’s health inequalities have been laid bare in a stark overview which highlights the challenges facing town hall officials.

Life expectancy in the borough falls below the national average and for residents in our most deprived areas the level drops even further.

Despite the borough having a history of poor health, statistics show that we have seen significant improvements in crucial areas such as life expectancy, alcohol hospital admissions and smoking prevalence

Prof Kate Ardern

The 2016 Public Health Profile for Wigan, published this week, also highlights concerning figures relating to alcohol-related hospital admissions, teen pregnancies, obese infants and smoking-related deaths.

In response, town hall health bosses have reiterated their commitment to improving prospects for residents and have pointed to significant progress made in recent years.

However, the profile will make for a sobering read at the town hall given that in a majority of the 31 health indicators used in the report, the borough falls below the regional and national averages.

It does, however, highlight that many of the borough’s health problems are attributable to the fact more residents live in the most severe areas of deprivation.

Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health for Wigan Council, said progress is being made.

She told the Evening Post: “It’s a fact that as a borough our health is improving year on year and the health gap with other areas in England is reducing.

“These improvements have been achieved through a wide range of support and innovative programmes such as Lose Weight, Feel Great, NHS health checks and projects like Heart of Wigan which encourage people to make a difference to their health.

“Despite the borough having a history of poor health, statistics show that we have seen significant improvements in crucial areas such as life expectancy, alcohol hospital admissions and smoking prevalence.

“Life expectancy at birth is improving at a faster rate than for England as a whole, especially in men.”

The profile report states life expectancy is around a decade lower for men and women living in the most deprived areas in the borough compared with the least.

One in five year six pupils are classified as obese, it adds, in addition to “levels of teenage pregnancy, breastfeeding initiation and smoking at time of delivery are worse than the national average”.

Alcohol-related hospital visits as well as smoking related deaths are also a major cause for concern, according to the report.

Prof Ardern added: “We are 100 per cent committed to improving the public health of people in Wigan borough.

“Our successful work in smoking cessation was highlighted by Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, at the Commons health committee earlier this year.

“We are proud that our approach is an innovative one and focuses on what people can do, empowering them to take control of their lives and make positive decisions.

“In the years to come we are confident that health will continue to improve and that people will be living longer and happier lives as result.

“Through our ‘Wigan On the Move’ initiative, as part of the Deal, we have committed £500,000 to enable community groups to support us with this aim and enable more people to be more active and lead healthier lives.”