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‘Shocking’ variation in early death rates

A new website allows people to compare their council’s performance on four major causes of early avoidable death.

The Longer Lives site, published by Public Health England (PHE), shows local variation in early death rates, with local authorities rated using a traffic light system. Above-average progress in tackling avoidable deaths is marked green, while red indicates that more work is needed.

Councils are grouped with others of similar socioeconomic status, allowing local people to compare areas and for councils to gain insight into their new responsibilities since April, and to identify areas of concerns.

The data shows that in general the north of England has a higher risk of early death, as do more urbanised areas. But some local authorities, such as Rotherham, have the best rates for areas of great deprivation.

In total there are around 103,000 avoidable premature deaths in England ever year, with the variation due to differences in risk factors such as prevalence of obesity, smoking and drinking.

Longer Lives uses data from the Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) and also provides NICE guidance.

Hunt said: “This shocking variation in early and unnecessary deaths means people’s lives are needlessly cut short, and that cannot continue unchecked.

“I want areas to use the data released today to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 30,000 lives a year by 2020.

“Being more transparent will also allow professionals and the public to see how their local area is performing over time, allowing them to intervene and make improvements happen.”

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at PHE, said: “Longer Lives comes at a time when the health and care system is undergoing great change and will support local government in its new role as the champion for their public’s health.

“Deaths in England under age 75 place us seventh out of 17 European countries for men and 15th for women, and must improve. For premature deaths caused by lung disease, we are 16th, and figures for liver disease deaths are worsening compared with European improvement.

“Longer Lives is an initiative presenting a clear picture of health in local areas – where it is good and bad – so everyone involved can consider and agree how to make improvements from a common basis of knowledge. The data is provided alongside evidence of what needs to be done as well as case studies and will increase in scope and richness.”

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