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Rising poverty deepens health inequality in Leeds, report reveals

Wide inequalities revealed in report

Rising poverty is leading to worsening health for people living in the city’s poorest communities compared to the most affluent, research has found.

The impact on life expectancy and indicators like low birth weight are revealed in a report published 12 months into a two-year public health project.

The Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board teamed up with the Institute of Health Equity (IHE) to launch the project, Fairer Leeds.

The IHE is led by Professor Michael Marmot, a leading public health expert who has published research into the links between health and wealth.

The report said an increasing number of people in Leeds were living in deprived neighbourhoods most affected by the economic impact of the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

The report, which compares Leeds to other city’s of a similar size, said: “In line with many other cities in the UK, there are significant and persistent inequalities across a range of outcomes in Leeds.

“Compared to other core cities, Leeds compares unfavourably across several measures.

“Leeds has a population that is becoming younger and more ethnically diverse and an increasing number of people living in the poorest neighbourhoods.

“Life expectancy in Leeds was levelling off before Covid for both men and women and in most recent figures is showing a decrease. ”

The research will be discussed at a meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday (21 March).

A presentation to the meeting shows wide disparities in low birth weight, households claiming out-of-work benefits and children living in low-income households between different parts of the city.

The report said: “Within the city, there are stark inequalities between the richest and poorest neighbourhoods, but these inequalities also occur on a gradient with increasing wealth associated with better health.”

Worsening health was linked to the impact of financial austerity from central government.

The report said: “Since the decision was made to work with the IHE, the pressure on local authority budgets has increased.

“Understanding how to improve health, reduce inequalities and make the best use of resources within this context is therefore vital.”

Recommendations to help narrow health inequalities in the city will be discussed at the meeting.

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