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Public health in England: improvements and challenges

Life expectancy is at the highest level ever, deaths from cancer, heart disease and stroke are falling, and infant mortality is at its lowest level ever according to the Health Profile of England 2007, published today by the Department of Health.

This year's Health Profile shows ongoing improvements such as:

  • Increasing life expectancy, now at its highest ever level.
  • Mortality rates from cancers and circulatory diseases are declining.
  • Infant mortality has reduced and is now at its lowest ever level.
  • The number of people smoking is decreasing and the number of smoking attributable deaths is decreasing.
  • The quality of housing stock, an important health determinant, is improving.

The Profile contains international comparisons and compares the health of England to that of the European Union:

  • Early death from the two biggest killers, circulatory disease and cancer are reducing faster in England than the average for the EU.
  • Deaths from motor vehicle traffic accidents in the UK are among the lowest in the EU.

While the statistics show that there has been ongoing improvement in many aspects of the nation's health, the Health Profile also shows that there are some issues where progress is slow. Regional health inequalities still exist, and rates of obesity, diabetes and alcohol related hospital admissions are rising.

In comparison to the EU-15, the prevalence of obesity in England is the highest. Deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis have risen markedly, and England has risen above the EU-15 average. Despite declining teenage pregnancy rates, the UK also has the highest proportion of births to under 20s compared to other Western European countries.

Public Health Minister, Dawn Primarolo, said:

"We are improving much faster in areas such as circulatory disease and cancer than the European average and delivering better treatment to more people than ever before, saving thousands of lives.

"But we know there is much more to do. Lord Darzi's review of the NHS sets out a vision for a world class health service that is safer, personalised, fairer and more effective.

"The second stage of the review will see 72 clinical champions lead taskforces across the country. They will recommend how to further improve healthcare in their local areas based on clinical evidence, best practice and the views of staff and patients."

Deparment of Health

*EU-15 is the EU countries who were members prior to 2004