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Deprived areas face more avoidable deaths, report finds

Food bank sign in Scotland

Doctors want urgent action to tackle poverty and improve public health services after an official report found a strong connection between deprivation and preventable deaths in England and Wales.

The link was made in an ONS (Office for National Statistics) report, released this week, which examined avoidable deaths across the two countries in 2015.

There were nearly 16,700 deaths from avoidable causes in the most deprived areas, compared with some 7,200 in the least deprived ones, it found.

The largest relative inequality in avoidable mortality was for respiratory diseases. Men and women in the most deprived areas were, respectively, almost five and eight times more likely to die from avoidable causes compared with those living in the least deprived ones.

Smoking was considered to be the ‘the most likely contributory factor to these differences’, ONS research officer for health analysis and life events Annie Campbell said.

BMA board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said the findings raised questions about access to high-quality healthcare for people living in deprived areas. 

‘Access to good healthcare and education around preventable illnesses should not be determined by socioeconomic background, yet those living in the most deprived areas are still more likely to die from an avoidable disease, with smoking-related illnesses a notable killer,’ she said.

‘We need to address this social injustice, which leaves the poorest in society at greater risk of an early, avoidable death.

‘Politicians and policy makers must take urgent action by investing in measures to tackle poverty and increase the provision of public health and preventative healthcare services, such as smoking cessation services for those in deprived areas.

‘This has been made harder, however, by significant cuts to public health budgets in recent years.’

Read the BMA’s report on health inequalities

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