Health chiefs in Wolverhampton have set an ambitious target to increase people’s healthy life expectancy – the length of time they can expect to be in 'good health' – by nearly 10 years over the next decade.
Latest data shows that the average healthy life expectancy for men and women in Wolverhampton is 56.4 years and 59.5 years respectively. The City of Wolverhampton Council's Vision for Public Health 2030 has laid down a target to raise this to 66 years for men and 69 years for women by 2030.
At the same time, the Vision seeks to increase the average life expectancy of men from 77.4 to 81 years and for women from 81.4 to 84 years by 2030 while also closing the gap in life expectancy between the City's richest and poorest residents by around a third. Currently this stands at 11.3 years for men and 9.5 years for women.
It comes as public health services in Wolverhampton are being transformed, with a new focus on addressing those factors known to impact the health and wellbeing of people on a City-wide level.
John Denley, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Director of Public Health, said: “Over the last few years we have seen a reduction in life expectancy and a widening of the gap between the health of people from our wealthiest and most deprived communities. Too many of our residents also live the last 20 years of their lives in poor health.
“We desperately need to change this; we want to increase both life expectancy and healthy life expectancy considerably by 2030 as well as close the gap in life expectancy between our communities which currently exists.
“To do this we are transforming our public health services so that we are in the best position to make a difference to the factors which most affect the health and wellbeing of the people of Wolverhampton.
“Traditionally public health services have focused on helping individuals to stop smoking, lose weight and so on. But we know that having the best start in life, an excellent education, a stable and rewarding job and a decent home in a thriving community are the strongest factors that influence not only how long a person is likely to live but also their quality of life.
"We are therefore refocussing our efforts on helping the council and its partners to get these factors right because, coupled with enabling access to high quality health and social care services, these will have the greatest impact on the behaviours, lifestyle choices and health of our residents."
Councillor Hazel Malcolm, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “We know that too many of our residents suffer from poor health. Austerity and central government cuts to funding and service provision play a part in this, but poor lifestyle choices and poor opportunities are also a key factor.
“The challenge, within this context of continuing financial pressures, is to tackle some of the most entrenched issues which impact on the health of the whole population.
"The improvements we want to make will take time to achieve, and that is why the Vision has chosen a range of short and medium-term indications which, if are delivered well by the council and partners across Wolverhampton, will show that we are moving in the right direction."
The Vision includes a health check – detailing some of the challenges the City currently faces, including obesity, smoking, teenage pregnancy and infant mortality rates which are higher than the national average, and a higher proportion of children living in poverty.
The Vision outlines how public health professionals from the City of Wolverhampton Council will work as one with public sector partners to raise health outcomes across the City.
It highlights a range of improvements which are expected as a result, including increasing the number of children who are ready to start school, further reducing infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates, tackling inequalities in educational attainment and employment rates, increasing physical activity, reducing smoking rates and drug and alcohol misuse, reducing the number of rough sleepers, increasing the uptake of flu vaccinations and NHS health checks and improving the wellbeing of carers.
To see the Vision for Public Health 2030, please visit www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/health.