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London’s health and inequalities

London has the potential to become the world’s healthiest global city. The overall health and wellbeing of Londoners is improving. Over the last decade, there has been a fall in the rates of early death from cancer and heart, circulatory and lung diseases. Life expectancy for Londoners is now more than 80 years for men and more than 84 years for women.

London is a vibrant, tolerant, open and a relatively healthy place, but we face challenges. Major environmental, social and economic changes are underway. Our population is growing, our working patterns are changing, and poverty – linked to housing costs, low pay and debt – is rising.

London also has the widest health inequalities in England. All Londoners deserve a fair opportunity to live a long life, and to be well enough to get the best out of life in London at any age. Currently, too many are missing out.

What are health inequalities

Health inequalities are systematic, avoidable and unfair differences in mental or physical health between groups of people. These differences affect how long people live in good health. They are mostly a result of differences in people’s homes, education and childhood experiences, their environments, their jobs and employment prospects, their access to good public services and their habits.

The rate of early deaths from preventable causes is twice as high in Tower Hamlets as it is in the nearby City of London. But inequalities don’t just lead to people dying early. They also unnecessarily undermine people’s quality of life. People from some of London’s deprived neighbourhoods are unnecessarily living with ill-health for years, or even decades. For example, women in Tower Hamlets can expect to spend 37 per cent of their lives in poor health – that’s equivalent to 30 years. Many of their health problems could be prevented.

But it isn’t only deprived communities whose health suffers because of the inequalities in our city. There is a clear relationship between wealth and health which means that everyone but the very richest is likely to have some avoidable illness. We know that cities with lower levels of inequality are also healthier overall.

This means that if we focus on reducing inequalities, we will make London a healthier city as well as a fairer one. It is why health inequalities cannot be seen in isolation. Improving Londoners’ health will also be a result of how we tackle the housing crisis, and how we give people the skills they need to access well paid, stable employment.

Formal responses to the consultation by organisations can be submitted via the questionnaire on the Draft Mayor’s Health Inequalities Strategy website page at www.london.gov.uk/health-strategy