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'More heart deaths' in poorer areas

Residents in poorer areas of England still face a far greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease - a 2.5 times higher chance - than those in the least deprived parts.

The government figures came via an online tool showing variation in death rates and risk factors and the Department of Health (DH) hopes this comparative system will drive up standards and improve targeting of resources.

The aim of developing this system, compiled by the South East Public Health Observatory, was to help health services assess the impact of cardiovascular diseases on their catchment populations, said the department.

The figures show the quality and availability of services, and where a stronger focus on prevention could improve outcomes for patients.

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and strokes, is the main cause of death in the UK, causing around a third of all deaths in England.

Figures from the tool show mortality rates for cardiovascular disease in England have decreased, but this varies from more than 55% in Sunderland, Mid-Essex and Hartlepool, to around 40% in parts of London and the East of England.

Mortality rates from cardiovascular disease are still much higher among people who live in deprived areas and in 2009 were more than 2.5 times higher compared with those people who live in the least deprived areas.

Obesity levels also changed greatly between areas. Estimates of adult obesity vary from around 15% of the population in parts of London to around 30% in areas such as Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool.

Poor diet is widespread in every area with less than 50% of people eating enough fruit and vegetables, falling to around 20% in parts of the North East.

Professor Roger Boyle, National Clinical Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, said: "They are a sobering reminder of the public health challenges around poor diet and obesity. But different parts of the country can learn from each other too, which is part of the importance of making this data publicly available."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Department of Health