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Mayor says leading a healthy life should not be a luxury

  • Sadiq Khan publishes ‘Better Health for all Londoners’ - aiming to tackle city’s inequalities and improve the health of everyone living in the capital
  • Health inequalities in London are the worst in the UK
  • New health inequality map shows women in Tower Hamlets can expect to live for 30 years in ill health, compared to under 12 years for men in Enfield
  • By focusing on reducing inequality, London can become a healthier city, as well as a happier, more prosperous and fairer one

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, condemned the stark disparity in the number of years that Londoners in different boroughs can expect to live in ill health as he published his Health Inequality Strategy.

A new map released alongside the Mayor’s strategy illustrates the wide inequality within the capital. It shows that women suffer disproportionately with ill health in 30 of the 32 London boroughs – living in ill health for an average of 19.9 years, compared to 16.1 years for men.

Most starkly, women living in Tower Hamlets can expect to live for 30.1 years in poor health, whereas for men in Enfield, the number of years is just 11.7 – a gap of 18.4 years1.

Life expectancy for Londoners is now more than 80 years for men and more than 84 years for women. The Mayor’s focus is to ensure that all Londoners can live as much of their lives as possible in good health. His new draft strategy, published on 23 August 2017 for consultation, aims to reduce inequalities in the capital, improving the health of Londoners and helping them to live longer, healthier lives.

Health inequalities are systematic and avoidable and are defined as unfair differences in mental or physical health. They are mostly the result of differences in people’s homes, education and their childhood experiences, local environment, their jobs, access to public services and their habits. There is a clear relationship between wealth and health, which means that everyone but the most financially well off are likely to suffer from an avoidable illness or condition.

The Mayor’s outline strategy, which will look to address these inequalities and, in turn, improve the health of all Londoners, contains five strands. These are:

  • Healthy Children – helping to ensure all of London’s children have healthy places in which to learn, play and develop, and giving all young people the best start in life
  • Healthy Minds – supporting Londoners to feel comfortable talking about mental health, reducing stigma and encouraging people across the city to work together to reduce suicide
  • Healthy Places – working towards London having the best air quality of any major global city, making the capital’s streets healthier, ensuring all Londoners have access to good-quality green space, tackling income inequality and fuel poverty, creating healthy workplaces, improving housing quality and affordability, and addressing homelessness and rough sleeping
  • Healthy Communities – encouraging all Londoners to participate in community life, equipping people with the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to improve their health, supporting the prevention of HIV and TB, reducing hate crime and enabling more Londoners to benefit from social prescribing (a way of linking patients with sources of support within the community to treat social, rather than medical problems)
  • Healthy Habits – working with partners towards a reduction in childhood obesity rates and a reduction in the gap between the boroughs with the highest and lowest rates of child obesity, and encouraging all Londoners to reduce smoking, alcohol and drug use among all Londoners, especially among young people

As well as ensuring the GLA family is doing everything possible to meet these five key priorities, the Mayor is building partnerships with organisations across the capital to encourage them to implement measures that will contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.

As chair of the London Health Board, the Mayor is also bringing together Public Health England, the NHS, London Councils, Association of Directors of Public Health, businesses, other healthcare providers and charities across the city and is asking them how they can support his ambition to make London the world’s healthiest city.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Leading a healthy life should not be determined by where you live - it is unacceptable that a person’s wealth, background and postcode has such a major impact on their overall health. I want every single Londoner to be able to enjoy a healthy and happy life.

“London has the potential to become one of the world’s healthiest major cities. If we are to achieve this ambition, we must start by reducing some of the massive inequalities that exist in the capital.

“From improving air quality and reducing childhood obesity to promoting good mental health and decreasing social isolation, all of us have a part to play in improving the health of Londoners.”

The Mayor has already taken steps to reduce London’s health inequalities, including the most ambitious plan to tackle air quality in any city in the world2 and the launch of Thrive LDN, a city-wide movement improve the mental health and wellbeing of Londoners3. Poor air quality and poor mental health both disproportionately affect people on lower incomes and contribute to a lower life expectancy and increased years lived in ill health.

Other stark findings highlighted in the strategy include:

  • The rate of early deaths from preventable causes is twice as high in Tower Hamlets as it is in the City of London4
  • London’s suicide rate has increased from 7.8 per 100,000 people in 2014 to 10.4 per 100,000 in 2015 – up by a third5
  • 10 per cent of London’s households are affected by fuel poverty6
  • On average, rough sleepers in the capital die aged 477
  • London has the highest rate of obesity of 10-11 year olds in England (23 per cent)8

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Regional Director for London at Public Health England and Health Advisor to the Mayor, said: “There are wide variations in health and healthy life expectancy across the capital due to a diverse range of issues. This needs action from different agencies to change the current pattern of early mortality, build healthier communities and support the people who need most help. By publishing this strategy, the Mayor of London is showing he is taking the issue of health inequalities very seriously. It’s also great to see mental health given a prominent place in the strategy. We can achieve so much more by working together and I look forward to seeing improvements to the lives of every Londoner.”

Dr Tom Coffey OBE, Mayoral Health Advisor, said: “All Londoners deserve to live long, happy and fulfilling lives, regardless of their background or where they live. By creating a fairer economy, a more integrated society and improving the environment we can address some of the conditions that lead to major differences in health across the city. However, the Mayor cannot bridge these vast inequalities on his own. We need partners around the capital to step up and pledge to support the Mayor’s Health Inequality Strategy and commit to improving the quality of life for all Londoners.”

Shaun Danielli, Director for Healthy London Partnership, said: “Healthy London Partnership is fully supportive of the ambitions expressed in the Mayor’s Health Inequality Strategy and already working on behalf of the NHS in London, with a wide range of partners, to drive the changes needed to tackle some of these issues on a city level.

“Raising awareness of childhood obesity in London, improving care for people having a mental health crisis, researching and testing innovative ways of encouraging Londoners to curb unhealthy habits, supporting GPs to provide better care for people who are homeless or in vulnerable housing and supporting London workplaces to promote health and wellbeing, are some of the ways in which we are already beginning to try and make a difference.

“We’re excited about the opportunities that the Health Inequality Strategy will provide all Londoners to lead healthier and happier lives.  We encourage all our partners across the NHS to support these ambitions to make our capital the healthiest city in the world.”

All Londoners are invited to share views about the ideas in the strategy. The consultation will be open until 30 November 2017. Further information is available here: