Health Equals

27 ORGANISATIONS CALL ON THE NEW GOVERNMENT TO TACKLE BIRMINGHAM’S ‘SCANDALOUS’ 14-YEAR GAP IN LIFE EXPECTANCY[1]

A Birmingham baby is now the star of a major campaign in the Bullring – highlighting that newborns in Birmingham could live 14 years less than in other parts of the UK

  • New research reveals people in the West Midlands want the new Government to focus on improving housing, air quality and raising incomes to improve the region’s health

 

 

9th July 2024: Campaigning coalition, Health Equals, launches a new campaign in Birmingham to call on the new Government to fix the stark health inequalities that are cutting thousands of lives short across the UK every year.

 

In Birmingham, life expectancy is 14 years lower than in other parts of the UK, and evidence shows that health inequalities are getting worse.  Currently, factors like income, housing and air quality can cut your life short because of where you’re born in the UK.

 

Health Equals – a coalition of 27 organisations including Mind, the British Red Cross, Citizens Advice Bureau, Shelter, Crisis, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and more – has launched the #MakeHealthEqual campaign because more than one in four children in the West Midlands is living in poverty[2], whilst over a third (35%) of people in the West Midlands say they do not have enough money to live well[3] and air pollution in the West Midlands is too high, breaching the World Health Organisation’s healthy levels[4].

 

To shine a spotlight on the issue of health inequalities, Health Equals photographed 50 babies to illustrate the shocking range of life expectancies across different towns and cities in the UK.

 

One of these babies, from Birmingham, is currently featuring on a giant billboard in the Bullring to raise awareness of the stark health inequalities which need to be addressed.

 

According to new research commissioned by Health Equals, when asked what people would like to see the new Government take action on to improve health – nearly three quarters (43%) of people in the West Midlands said that they would like ‘more affordable, quality housing’, 41% selected ‘improving air quality and access to nature/green spaces’ and over a third (34%) of people in the West Midlands cited ‘low income’ as having the most negative impact on our health.

 

Alastair, a disabled project manager and parent based in Birmingham, comments on how air quality negatively affects his family: “My daughter is two years old, and she was diagnosed with asthma at one. We live in a suburban area in Birmingham, and currently everyone cuts through it because they don’t want to use the main road, and because our road looks like a dual carriageway, we get a lot of cars streaming by and queuing up. You can see [its effects] on my daughter, she coughs at night, and she coughs in the morning, and it’s really quite harrowing for me to see that.

“It’s difficult because, at least in Birmingham, it’s the working-class areas, the areas where the property prices are lower, that end up getting driven through. We’re a young couple, we’ve got a young child, we’re paying for childcare fees, we live in an area that isn’t very well off, and so ours gets driven through, and it’s usually the people who are driving through from the richer areas that are doing it. There’s that inequality aspect – it feels very unfair to me that my daughter is the one that’s suffering, and I’m sure my neighbour’s kids are as well, so some rich person can drive their gas-guzzling SUV through and end up affecting my child.”

 

Shale Ahmed, Project Leader at community-led mission, Aspire and Succeed, in Lozells, Birmingham talks about his experiences of trying to address the housing crisis in his area through his work: “There was one family who had been living in a series of hotels for four years, cramped conditions that didn’t allow them to cook and kept them from sleeping properly, which took its toll on their mental health particularly. Despite this, they were classified as Band C by the council, which means it often takes years to find social housing.

“The family didn’t know what kind of paperwork to submit to upgrade them to B and A where they’d be a top priority for a permanent house. We helped them compile and submit the right evidence, showing that their accommodation was overcrowded and that they’ve been stuck in temporary accommodation for a long time.

“Within three months they secured a house down the road from where we’re based. The difference in their wellbeing is incredible. We see them occasionally on the street and they get really excited. They say the kids have space to study and their family is close by. Being house proud or being able to bring people over to socialise is so massive. They don’t feel ashamed or where they live anymore.”

Health Equals has captured the reactions of more people in Birmingham to the life expectancy discrepancy across the UK: healthequals.org.uk/make-health-equal/west-midlands/

Health Equals is now calling for the new Labour Government to recognise the importance of the building blocks of health – stable jobs and pay, good quality and affordable homes, and neighbourhoods with green spaces and clean air – and make them a priority across Government. The coalition is calling for cross-government action on prevention, targets to be set, and for Labour to be held to account in tackling inequalities and reducing the gap in life expectancy across the UK.

Paul McDonald, Chief Campaigns Officer, Health Equals, said: “It’s scandalous that babies born in parts of the West Midlands could have their lives cut short by up to 14 years compared to other parts of the UK.

“Our health is shaped by the world around us – from the money in our pockets, to quality homes that are warm and safe, stable jobs and neighbourhoods with green space and clean air. But these essential building blocks of good health aren’t available to everyone. While individual choices and access to health care do impact our health, evidence shows these building blocks have a far stronger impact.

“Too many parts of the UK are at risk of being ‘left behind’ without policies that support these building blocks of health and wellbeing. It’s not right but we can change it. The time is now to call on the new Government to Make Health Equal.”

To keep pressure on the new Government, Health Equals has started a petition – calling on people to ask their MP to commit to tackling health inequalities. For more information and to sign the petition, visit healthequals.org.uk.

[2] OHID Fingertips Health Data. Indicator: Children in Relative Low Income Families

[3] OHID Fingertips Health Data. Indicator: Individuals Not Reaching the Minimum Income Standard

[4] OHID Fingertips Health Data. Indicator: Air Pollution

Let’s #MakeHealthEqual.

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