Health inequalities behind region's high Covid death rate, report says

The West Midlands has seen three times as many Covid deaths among under 65s compared to the South West, a new report has found.

The West Midlands saw three times as many Covid deaths among under 65s compared to South West
The West Midlands saw three times as many Covid deaths among under 65s compared to South West

Analysis by the Health Foundation has revealed significant regional variants in coronavirus deaths among those aged under 65 in England, with the West Midlands having one of the highest death rates at 21.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Only London (25.5 deaths per 100,000) and the North West (22 per 100,000) had higher rates, while the South West had the lowest rate in the country at 6.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

The report also shows that Sandwell had the eighth highest mortality rate for the age group of local authorities in England during the second wave of the pandemic, with a rate of 42.8 deaths per 100,000 coming in at 2.4 times higher than the national average.

Cannock Chase, Wolverhampton and Walsall were also badly hit, with mortality rates of 35.2, 34 and 33.6 respectively.

The Health Foundation said the findings show a strong relationship between poverty, deprivation and death.

The independent charity says the research highlights the need for the Government’s levelling up strategy to "narrow the health gap" across different areas of the country.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, chief executive at the Health Foundation, said: "The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on the country but particularly on those living in the poorest areas.

"As the country recovers, we have a once in a generation opportunity to address the underlying ill health and economic inequalities that contributed to some areas of the country experiencing more Covid-19 deaths than others.

‘The Government has said that improving health will be at the core of its plans to level up the UK, but as yet there is no direct meaningful action or investment to make this a reality.

"Initiatives are currently skewed towards boosting financial and physical infrastructure and don’t prioritise health or the wider factors that influence health directly.

"Measures of health and wellbeing – such as healthy life expectancy – should be a major influence on the allocation of funding and used to assess the government’s progress."

Dr Dixon urged ministers to address health inequalities in the white paper on levelling up due later this year.

The analysis also showed that some parts of the country without high levels of deprivation have recorded high mortality rates.

They include Slough, which had the highest death rate of all local authorities at 53.7 per 100,000, and Castle Point in Essex, where the rate was 43.5.

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