Town women living longer

HEALTH chiefs say life expectancy levels for Hartlepool women are rising – but warn there is still a long way to go.

Hartlepool hit the national headlines back in 2009 when it was revealed town women had the lowest life expectancy in the country.

Back then, life expectancy stood at 78.1 years compared to the highest in Kensington and Chelsea, where the age was 87.8 years.

Two years later the average female life expectancy in town has risen to 79.8 and Hartlepool no longer has the title of worst in the country.

It is also now a lot closer to the North-East average, which is just over the 81 mark. But Hartlepool is still below the national average of 82.3.

Health chiefs have welcomed the improvement and say it is moving in the right direction.

They put it down to a significant decrease in the number of early deaths through heart disease and strokes and a rise in adults quitting smoking.

Officials say a Healthy Hearts campaign has also helped boost the figures.

Louise Wallace, assistant director for health improvement for NHS Hartlepool and Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “The overall picture of health in Hartlepool is still very challenging and there is still a significant way to go.

“We are getting closer to the North-East average and this is good news.

“Obviously it is not the best in the country but it is improving and this is nationally validated data which tells us we are moving in the right direction.”

The number of early deaths through heart disease and stroke has dropped from 125.8 per 100,000 population under 75 in 2007 to 82.1 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of adults smoking has fallen from 33 per cent in 2007 to 24.5 per cent in 2011, while the number of women smoking in pregnancy has fallen from 27.83 per cent to 23.95 per cent.

Back in 2009, the council’s health scrutiny forum agreed to monitor the issue of health inequalities in town and the forum met yesterday to hear the situation is slowly improving.

But figures also showed that even within Hartlepool there are

stark inequalities.

For example, women living in Hart have a life expectancy of 83 compared to those in Stranton, who have a life expectancy of just 76.

The inequalities are the same for men with those living in Hart having a life expectancy of 80 and those in Stranton, 66, a 14-year difference.

Ms Wallace added: “Deprivation comes in many forms and it has a devastating impact on health.

“There are many areas of the town still suffering from inequality.

“It is not just about how long you live but the quality of life that you have and education and employment are critical to a good quality of life.”

Other factors affecting life expectancy levels include alcohol abuse and obesity which are major issues in town.

It was agreed a further report will go back to the forum highlighting the social and cultural factors involved and a more detailed breakdown for each ward area of Hartlepool.