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The Department of Health (DoH) has launched an interactive website to support efforts to raise life expectancy in deprived areas.

The Health Inequalities Intervention Tool has been set up to help primary care trusts (PCTs), practice based commissioners and local authorities in Spearhead areas (the fifth of areas in England with the worst health and deprivation) to understand how the life expectancy gap of their local populations can be improved.

It shows current life expectancy for each of the 70 Spearhead areas and the relevant gaps with the rest of England.

The tool shows the diseases that contribute to low life expectancy in each Spearhead area and provides a "ready reckoner" for the major interventions that can help narrow the local gap quickly, based on real data.

It can also help PCTs to calculate the number of local people who are likely to need treatment for cardiovascular disease.

The Department of Health wants a 10 per cent reduction by 2010 in the difference between the Spearhead areas and England as a whole for life expectancy at birth.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: "Our task now is to support local NHS and local authority service planners, commissioners and frontline staff to deliver on those targets, and this is an excellent example of giving staff in Spearhead areas the tools to do the job and to do it well."

Although it is improving in all areas of the country, the gap between life expectancy in Spearhead areas and the rest of England is continuing to widen. In 2003-05, the average life expectancy in England was 76.9 years for men and 81.1 years for women: but for those living in Spearhead areas it was 74.9 for men and 79.6 for women. About 13,700 fewer people aged between 30-59 years old would have died in Spearhead areas during this period had the death rates in those areas been the same as in the rest of England.

Dr Bobbie Jacobson, vice chair of the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) and director of the London Health Observatory, said: "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.

"The tool is easy to use and saves local agencies time and analytical effort. More importantly, we hope it will help Spearhead authorities to close the gap."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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