UCL: People in Luton are living shorter lives than they should

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Reducing Health Inequalities in Luton: A Marmot Town, is published today (Wednesday 7 September, 2022) and emphasises how ill health starts in childhood and tracks throughout life, placing tens of thousands of people in preventable ill health and poverty.

While Luton has many strategies for reducing inequalities and improving health for poorer children in schools, it is anticipated that the severe situation this winter will damage health and widen health inequalities.

In the years 2017-19, before the COVID-19 pandemic, life expectancy at birth in Luton was, on average, more than one year less than the England average for men (79), and about eight months less for women (83). Latest ONS data shows there’s also wide differences in life expectancy within the town itself*. Those who live in the more deprived areas like Challney, central Luton & Park Town are predicted to die around eight years before those in affluent areas such as Bramingham, Barnfield and Stopsley North.

The IHE’s Deputy Director, Dr Jessica Allen explained: “These stark differences in health and life expectancy begin in the early years of life. Luton lags behind the national average in some important areas, with higher infant mortality rates and more child poverty. Without a good start in life these children are more likely to have unstable work, live in poor quality housing and not have enough money to lead a healthy life.

“But Luton is well-placed to become a Marmot town – it has a thriving and vibrant voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise (VCFSE) sector, a resilient economy and no shortage of the ambition and leadership needed to put health equity at the top of the agenda. It has some important plans for change including the Luton 2020-40 plan, the Fairness Taskforce and becoming a Child Friendly Town.”

Luton Borough Council is partnering with IHE to make Luton a Marmot Town to reduce these avoidable health inequalities. The town is joining a growing number of ‘Marmot Places’, which includes cities and regions across the country, such as Manchester, Coventry, and Cheshire & Merseyside. These Marmot Places work towards implementing the eight ‘Marmot Principles’ to create communities where everybody has an opportunity to thrive.

Dr Allen added: “Across England, between 2010 and 2020 life expectancy slowed and actually fell for people living in deprived areas. It’s likely as a result of the policies of austerity, which led to significant financial cuts. While Luton does well on some measures, such as education for more deprived children, unfortunately health will get significantly worse in Luton, as across the country, as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. Our partnership with Luton will help orientate Luton in the right direction to be a healthy town – and build on the strong leadership and appetite to do this. But it has to be accompanied by significant national government intervention if we are to prevent the humanitarian crisis of poverty.”

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