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Poor women's life expectancy drops

Life expectancy for women in the most deprived areas of England is getting worse, a new report from the Department of Health claims.

The gap between women in the poorest regions and the rest of the country was up from 8% in 2003-05, to 11% in 2004-06, it said.

The inequality in male life expectancy stayed the same at 2%, but the number of deaths among children from disadvantaged backgrounds remains 17% higher than the rest of England.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said: "This report proves what we already know - health inequalities are difficult to change.

"We've set ourselves an ambitious target and we're the only country in the world to have a plan to reduce health inequalities."

But Phillipa Hunt, from Save the Children, said: "This report highlights the damaging effect of poverty on children's lives.

"That babies in the poorest families have a 17% higher chance of dying reinforces why it is so crucial the government follows through on its promise to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it completely by 2020.

"It now needs to come through with the extra money needed to fulfil its promise. There can be no better justification than that it will help save the lives of the poorest children."

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Department of Health