New ONS data on nation’s health reveals significant geographic disparity underlining need to level up

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A substantial gap in geographical health equality and significant declines in overall mental and physical morbidity are key themes emerging from new Office of National Statistics (ONS) Health Index Data revealed today, which for the first time measures total health of the nation in a holistic way.

  • For the first-time, ONS has brought together health data to measure England’s health holistically beyond just illness
  • The data shows no discernible improvement in stock of health 2015-2018 as the overall index went from 100 (the base level) in 2015 to 99.7 in 2018.
  • In partnership with ONS, LCP launches the LCP Health Index platform enabling users to explore differences across local authorities and explain why
  • LCP reveals big deprivation gap in health index - Wokingham had the highest index score with 110.1 whilst the most deprived local authority was Blackpool at 86.4

The ONS Health Index is a composite measure to capture a broader definition of health. It comprises three categories that make up the nation’s ‘stock of health’ each doing so over different time-horizons and through different ways. Within each category are several domains and sub-domains with specific indicators.

The three categories covered are:

  • Healthy people - health outcomes, ensuring representation of the population as  
       a whole.
  • Healthy lives - lifestyle, behaviour, modifiable risk factors.
  • Healthy places - wider determinants of health, environmental factors.

The index is weighted evenly across the three categories, with specific weightings given to component domains and indicators within each category. The national value for all domains was set at 100 for the year 2015, with a higher number demonstrating an improvement in the nation’s stock of health and a number below 100 demonstrating poorer health. The overall data shows no improvement in stock of health 2015-2018 as the index for England went from 100 in 2015 to 99.7 in 2018.

In partnership with the ground-breaking ONS data, consultancy Lane Clark Peacock (LCP) has also launched the LCP Health Index platform which allows users to create their own graphs and explore how the data varies across England at the local authority level.

Analysis of the data shows that overall wellbeing and mortality have seen slight improvements, but these have been cancelled out by worsening mental and physical health morbidity. There are also substantial geographic differences and a clear North / South divide within England.  

LCP’s analysis shows that the South-East of England (102.5) and London (101.0) were the healthiest regions while the North-East (95.9) and North-West (97.4) were the least healthy. The LCP Health Index platform helps explain why these differences exist through exploring the components that comprise a populations stock of health. While the healthy places score is higher in the North-East (102.4 compared to 98.9 overall) with better access to housing and green space; the healthy people domain is substantially lower at 89.9 (compared to 102.0 in the South East) with the region experiencing some of the lowest healthy life expectancy and disability that impacts daily living.

The LCP analysis also shows how the health index varies according to deprivation status of local authorities. The healthiest and least deprived local authority in 2018 was Wokingham with an index score of 110.1 whilst the most deprived local authority, Blackpool, was more than 20% lower at 86.4.

Further examination between the two areas shows that some of the largest contributors to the gap in the health index are in depression (51.0 in Blackpool vs 95.2 in Wokingham) and avoidable deaths (71.1 vs 121.0). Substantial inequities exist across local authorities in children’s social and mental health (83.9 vs 118.5) alongside smoking (85.4 vs 130.7).

Commenting on the data, Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, head of LCP’s Health Analytics team, said:

“This data is being published at a crucial time for the nation’s health as the NHS is stretched to deal with the impact of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers reveal clear and substantial differences across England and should be a wake-up call to the Government to deliver on its manifesto pledge to level up regional inequalities. While there is some encouragement to be had from slight improvements in measures related to wellbeing and mortality, these have been cancelled out by worsening mental and physical health morbidity. These may have deteriorated further as a result of Covid-19.

“Being able to identify the components that account for the variations in the index over time and across populations, both by geography and deprivation, provides the opportunity to take a data-driven approach to investing in communities and build back better in 2021.”

ONS Health Index Explorer

ONS Health Index Explorer

Visualised by LCP

See the health index in your area, how it has changed over time and compares to other local authorities.

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