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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 September 1; 335(7617): 419.
PMCID: PMC1962845

Web tool indicates the most effective health measures in deprived areas

Primary care trusts in some of England's poorest areas have a new web based management tool to assess how they can improve mortality in their local population.

The programme, devised by the London Health Observatory and the Yorkshire and Humber Public Health Observatory for the Department of Health, allows trusts in deprived areas to see what measures would help save the most lives. It looks at four specific interventions known to have a major effect on mortality: smoking cessation; reducing infant mortality; prescribing antihypertensives; and providing statins for people with cardiovascular disease.

The site also breaks down life expectancy data in each area by disease, for men and for women, and indicates how many people in the population have undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.

The data cover 70 local authority areas in England that the government identifies as “spearhead areas”—those with major health inequalities. Average life expectancy in 2003-5 in England was 76.9 years for men and 81.1 years for women, but in spearhead areas the average is 74.9 for men and 79.6 for women. Had mortality in these areas been the same as in the rest of England, says the Department of Health, around 13 700 fewer people aged 30-59 would have died.

In 2003-5 the local authority with the lowest life expectancy at birth for boys and men was Manchester (72.5 years), while Liverpool had the lowest female life expectancy (78.1 years).

The government has set a target to reduce the gap in average mortality between spearhead areas and the rest of England to 10% by 2010. The health department says that three fifths of the areas are on track to achieve this.

“Our tool is the first of its kind to provide hard edged, local evidence to planners and commissioners on the causes of their life expectancy gap and how it can be reduced,” said Bobbie Jacobson, director of the London Health Observatory. “The tool is easy to use and saves agencies local time and analytical effort. More importantly, we hope it will help spearhead authorities to close the gap.”

Speaking at the launch, Dawn Primarolo, the minister for public health, said, “The tool is designed to help PCTs [primary care trusts], practice based commissioners, and local authorities in spearhead areas to understand the impact of simple, effective, evidence based measures. It can be used as part of a comprehensive local strategy to reduce health inequalities.”


The health inequalities intervention tool is available at

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