Inequalities branded 'curable evil' by health officials in Northumberland

Northumberland County Councils headquarters at County Hall in Morpeth.
Northumberland County Councils headquarters at County Hall in Morpeth. -Credit:Copyright Unknown

Northumberland's wide-ranging strategy to tackle inequalities has been updated to reflect lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic.

The strategy, which runs from 2018 to 2028, has a number of key focuses including empowering communities and giving young people the best start in life. However, the review - carried out at the mid point of the strategy - points out that the pandemic "shone more light" on existing inequalities in Northumberland.

In the poorest parts of the county, life expectancy is 12 years lower than for those people living in more wealthy areas. Residents in more deprived wards also spend longer living in poor health.

The new strategy states that the priorities consulted on for the original plan in 2017 remain central. However, new actions and indicators have been outlined in the view of "significant changes" since 2018.

The most important indicator will be a reduction in the life and healthy life expectancy gap between the most and least deprived communities. A key change is surrounds the "empowering people and communities" theme, which will now be embedded across all themes rather than being seen as a standalone approach.

Speaking at Thursday's meeting of Northumberland County Council's Health and Wellbeing Board, director of public health Gill O'Neil said: "This is, in effect, the first five years of a 20 year goal change.

"We're taking steps towards tackling inequalities that we can measure. People want to know what difference we're making."

The board's chairman, Coun Paul Ezhilchelvan, added: "Covid has shone more light on inequalities that exist within our communities.

"In response to that, several organisations have published their strategies for tackling inequalities including the NHS and the ICB (Integrated Care Board) as well as Northumberland County Council's new Corporate Plan.

"This demonstrates the commitment to tackling inequalities. This plan was developed by partners who worked together to ensure the whole system works together to tackle inequalities and start to reduce the gap in healthy life expectancy.

"We're working towards the generational change that we need to see happen. Speaking from my heart, I really wanted to see this refreshed.

"I believe in Northumberland we have lots to be proud of. This strategy is a hallmark of the fact that we're still a civilised society.

"We see inequalities as a preventable disease, a curable evil - so we put our resources together to tackle it head on."