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Researchers to tackle worsening North-South health divide

Posted on 18 July 2019

Researchers from the University of York have joined forces with other leading experts to tackle worsening health inequalities between the North and the rest of England.


Life expectancy in the seaside town of Blackpool is the worst in England.

Figures show that 86% of Northern Local Authorities now have a lower life expectancy than the England average of 79 years for men and 83 years for women.

In response to these worsening health inequalities, leading experts from over 20 northern universities, Public Health England, The Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and N8 are joining together to form the Northern Universities’ Public Health Alliance (NUPHA).

The initiative aims to work collaboratively across the North, to tackle the public health challenges faced across the region and highlight the gross inequalities seen within the North itself and between the North and the rest of England.

Health gap

Member of NUPHA, Professor Tim Doran from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, said: "There are major structural disparities in power and resources between northern and southern England, and as a result people living in the North live shorter and less healthy lives.

“This health gap has persisted for centuries, but in recent years has started to widen. Even amongst young and middle-aged adults, who should expect to be in good health, there are 1,800 excess deaths in the North every year, largely attributable to alcohol and drug misuse. 

“These widening divisions suggest increasing psychological distress and risk-taking in the North, and this demands effective policy responses proportionate to the scale of the problem, including substantial social and economic changes and a rebalancing of the economy between the North and South of England."

Ill health in the North is the reason behind a third of the productivity gap between the North and the rest of the UK, resulting in £13.2bn losses from the UK economy each year.

Improving health in the region could reduce this gap by 30%, according to the NUPHA.

Crucial research

Professor Paul Johnstone from Public Health England said: “Public Health England welcomes this initiative to network public health expertise across the north and to promote more equitable research funding between the north and south of the country.

“The NHS Long Term Plan places tackling health inequalities and prevention at its heart so this is a crucial time for Research & Development to help us take advantage of all the available opportunities to do so. This is an important new alliance which builds on the considerable expertise across the north of England’s universities and local practitioners.

“For so long the north has been behind the rest of the country both economically and in health.  New approaches to addressing inequalities are emerging all the time and the NUPHA will be key to supporting practitioners and decision makers with the best evidence.”

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About this research

NUPHA will be launched at the International Festival of Public Health on 18 July 2019.

Explore more of our research.