Norfolk and Suffolk health secrets revealed

A spotlight on the region's welfare shows that beneath an overall healthy outlook lie vast gaps in quality of life.

The Department of Health has revealed figures on Norfolk and Suffolk as part of a breakdown of local life.

The Local Health Profiles show that though the overall health of those in Norfolk is 'mixed' compared to the rest of the country it is significantly better than average in nearly half the 32 criteria, and significantly worse in four.

Within these general figures, South Norfolk tops the table, with 20 of the rating criteria significantly above average, and two significantly below, and Great Yarmouth lies at the bottom, with 16 areas that are significantly worse than average, and two significantly better.

Deprivation in the county – which measures how many in the population are in the country's poorest 20pc – is at 10.5pc, nearly half the national average.

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In South Norfolk and Broadland, none of the population is within this bracket. However, in Norwich this figure is more than trebled, while in Yarmouth disparities of wealth mean that life expectancy for the most deprived areas is 10 years lower for men and nearly five years lower for women than in the least deprived areas.

Norfolk scored well in overall healthcare. With a drop in smoking and smoking-related deaths, and early deaths from heart disease, strokes and cancer below the norm across the country, only rates of diabetes were worse than the standard. In Waveney a quarter of all pregnant women smoke.

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Jonathan Williams, NHS Norfolk's assistant director of public health, said: 'Many of the facts in the 2011 Health Profile for Norfolk speak for themselves. Smoking, being overweight and drinking too much alcohol causes disease and even early death.

'These are issues which the NHS in Norfolk is tackling but the reality is that we also need individuals and families to take responsibility for their own healthy lives and wellbeing.

'There is often a direct link between illness caused by unhealthy lifestyles and deprived areas. Our stated strategy is to work with communities to halt and reverse the gap in inequalities.

'It is significant that death rates here are falling, particularly deaths caused by heart disease and stroke. The considerable investments and focus of NHS Norfolk, our hospitals, community health teams and GPs are paying off.'

Child poverty in the county, with 26,567 falling into this category, is nearly 4pc lower than the English average but in Waveney the figure is above average.

The number of physically active children is also below average, though child obesity remains below the national average.

The statistics come after the news in February that Norfolk County Council had �60m worth of savings agreed for the 2011/12 budget as part of a three-year plan to save �155m.

Alison Thomas, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'These profiles relate to data collected before this year's budget and while these have been difficult decisions we are very keen to keep a close eye on any negative results and will do all we can with the funds we have available in future years to ensure we target any unforeseen impact.'

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