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Why Liverpool is on the long-term sick

'Health Factor' awards will tackle city's woeful health statistics, but is it enough, asks Larry Neild

Written by . Published on February 20th 2012.

Why Liverpool is on the long-term sick

Live in some parts of Liverpool and you'll pop your clogs (assuming you can still afford them) more than eight years before the rest of your countrymen. 

Men in a number of districts, including Kirkdale and Riverside, will be lucky if they hit the Biblical three score years and ten. 

It is clear to me many of the health inequalities
in parts of Liverpool are linked to low income, struggling to survive on various benefits and generations of unemployment

In some areas, more than half of the people are obese and there are whole streets of families living in poverty. Heart and lung diseases and cancers are rife. 

Even bleaker: medical staff from Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's Hospital said in 2010 that the huge growth in the number of avoidable health complaints, such as obesity, tooth decay, alcohol abuse and those associated with passive smoking, could lead to a generation dying before their parents. 

Alder Hey HospitalAlder Hey HospitalWhat would Charles Dickens make of these grim statistics of life for many in 21st century Liverpool? 

Are we, though, on the dawning of a new age where the communities of Liverpool are all working together in a city which is more equal, well and green? 

The council and NHS-backed Decade of Health and Wellbeing is organising a “Health-Factor” awards scheme showing how individuals are embracing positive action and real purpose. 

Good luck to them, but their ambitions remind me of a comment I wrote way back in the 1990s. The city decided to join a World Health Organisation campaign, headlined Health for All by the Year 2000: “Change the 2 to a 3 and you may be in with a fighting chance,” I said. 

Later, I was drafted onto a Liverpool Health is Wealth commission, launched by the University of Liverpool. The stark facts and statistics for the city, showered upon the commissioners, made me realise my earlier remarks were a little on the optimistic side. 

While initiatives such as Decade of Health and Wellbeing, with its cheery logo, are to be welcomed, the project can't even scratch the surface of the health problems over vast areas of Liverpool. 

It is clear to me many of the health inequalities in parts of Liverpool are linked to low income, struggling to survive on various benefits and generations of unemployment. The number of working age people officially listed as economically inactive is very high in Liverpool. 

Look at Kirkdale: 14,300 people living in one of the most deprived areas in the country, over half of the children living in poverty. People suffering twice the England average for killer heart and lung diseases. 

Head down the road to Riverside ward and life expectancy for males is just over 69, compared to an all-England life expectancy for males of almost 80. 

What is obviously needed is a massive programme, with huge resources providing education about health and wellbeing starting in primary schools, continuing into secondary education. But would that be enough on its own? 

There are now families in Liverpool where four generations are unemployed.  It's partly linked to Liverpool's one time reliance on so-called unskilled labour to serve the area's manufacturing base. 

Heart DiseaseThe disappearance of the big factories which employed thousands is still taking its toll. 

When I lived in Asia my home overlooked a large primary school where the day started in the school yard with every child happily doing exercises. Throughout the day the adjoining sports fields were the busiest classrooms, as all manner of sports activities took place. 

Even if a city-wide health campaign started in the schools, it would still be some years before the tide started to chance. 

Meanwhile Liverpool will continue to wear its badge as one of the most socially deprived and unhealthy areas of the UK, with some parts of the city among the worse in Europe. 

Yes, a health awareness programme is needed for the young, but while we are talking about health and wellbeing, we need to dramatically increase educational attainment and aspiration too. 

Somebody (can it be our upcoming city mayor?) has to break this vicious social cycle.

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2012.

The council, aided and abetted by its expensive quangos, thinks life as we know it ends at the edge of the city centre. Pamper the rich in their expensive apartments and crumbs will be chucked at the poor. We should be ever so grateful.

SaladDazeFebruary 21st 2012.

Poorer people have worse health than the better off. The solution is never at the margins - it involves doing something about the wealth differences from which all else flows: well-being, knowledge, confidence, language, networks, optimism, opportunity, education, job, food etbloodycetera. The Tory solutions (selling off the NHS, driving the poor out of cities, forcing the disabled to work for nothing) won't make people healthier - and in any civilised society those responsible would find people knitting at the foot of the ladder the politicians and derivatives traders (etcetera again) were mounting. I jest but you get my drift.

SaladDazeFebruary 21st 2012.

Nice photo! I never knew Page Moss produced anything so handsome.

Colette ForrestFebruary 21st 2012.

So drinking, smoking, eating rubbish food and taking no exercise have nothing to do with the problems?! Obese people aren't starving or living in economic poverty. Get real! Obviously all those years of labour made no difference,

Tricky wooFebruary 21st 2012.

Why don't we just be honest about this? All these health initiatives are just a sticking plaster on the gushing, gaping wound that is our failed society.

You live in Kensington, SW1, and you are going to live a decade longer than if you live in Kensington, L6/L7. Yet I bet they sell just as many M&S ready meals in Notting Hill as they do Asda lasagne on Smithdown Road.

It doesn't matter how much money you throw at Jamie Oliver and companies like Can Cook to tell people how white bread is bad for you; bottom line is that there are whole tranches of the population who have been completely failed by governments since Thatcher decided to dismantle the very fabric of their lives when she got rid of Britain's heavy industries; industries that the citizens of Liverpool (those who weren't employed issuing cheques at the Bootle Giro) completely depended on.

Give people a franchise and an income and thus a reason to respond accordingly.

But, er, that's not going to happen any time soon, is it? Work experience stacking shelves in Tesco for your Jobseekers anyone?

If I was on £67 a week with no hope of that ever changing, I would want to smoke knock-off Lambert & Butlers all day too

Myles FailbetterFebruary 21st 2012.

If you were an idle defeatist, yes of course you'd sit on yer arse watching daytime and smoking fags. But if you had anything about you you'd be doing some car boots, digging an allotment, making homebrew, growing yer own, etc, etc. Keeping busy. All the sort of things that those crusty old hippies get up to because they dont have a wrongheaded belief that the Man owes em a living.
When I were unemployed I used the free time to do some of the things that I'd yearned to do while in harness as a wage slave. So sad that so many people today, so fluent in victimspeak, are so passive and pathetic, welfare dependent and hooked on handouts.
You dont see travellers signing on, do you? They have too much self-respect. And too much contempt for the Man and his tax collectors to bend the knee to the system. So get off yer bum.

Colonel GingerFebruary 21st 2012.

What we need is a good war

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2012.

Tricky Woo is talking a lot of sense. These initiatives are all sticking plaster stuff. Get the pr people to write a few.... look at us, aren't we grrreat for 'elping the poverty people, gizza bonus, gizza pay rise. Makes yer bleedin sick these stupid campaigns.

Margo LeadbetterFebruary 21st 2012.

Mr. Failbetter seems to think that everyone else has his employed, middle-class self-confidence, access to a car (for car boots) tenancy of an allotment, the money to start it all up and the knowledge to make it a success.

So why doesn't he hand his "harness of wage slavery" to someone who would appreciate his job? Then he could play 'The Good Life' in the mud all he wants?

Does he not appreciate that enormous numbers of people have absolutely nothing in comparison to him?

Sneering and poking fun at the less fortunate has become rather fashionable with the sort of people who used to make jokes and look down their noses at the Irish, black people, women and homosexuals before the law made it clear that such activity was unacceptable.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Darth FormbyFebruary 24th 2012.

Margo, I love you!

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2012.

Margo, so sanctimonious and condescending! Thank goodness the poor have you to speak for them! lots of crap posted here amongst the sense. It's stupidity and ignorance that make people smoke, eat rubbish and fail to look after themselves, nothing else

2 Responses: Reply To This...
HandbagFebruary 22nd 2012.

<Is clutched>


Darth FormbyFebruary 24th 2012.

Bum smudge, crack sweat, Cameron's Frenum Mozzarella!

AnonymousFebruary 23rd 2012.

Go back to teaching home ecconomics in all schools to 18, at least if people can cook and can understand neutrician they'll have a fighting chance of eating healthily and on a budget too.


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