Health inequalities across the UK widened as a result of the pandemic and now a new report has highlighted that coastal communities have some of the worst health outcomes in England.

The report by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, calls for a national strategy to deal with the problem. It revealed that coastal towns have lower life expectancy and higher incidence of many major diseases. Case studies describe a high proportion of people with long-term conditions, with one in four people in Morecambe having a limiting long-term illness or disability significantly more than the national average. Compared to non-coastal areas, standardised mortality ratios for a range of conditions, including preventable mortality are significantly higher in coastal areas.

However, one thing that also become clear during the study, is the lack of available data on the health of coastal communities. Data is rarely published at a local enough level to accurately capture coastal outcomes. Most data are only available at local authority or Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) level. As a result, deprivation and ill health at the coast is hidden by relative affluence just inland as the data is all lumped together.


In depth analysis of local data can provide vital insight to improve outcomes

To get real insight which can lead to change and help to drive improvement in outcomes, it is essential that local health systems are able to get a deeper understanding of the population health issues that are driving inequalities within their areas. A detailed understanding of community health, social deprivation and the social determinants of lifespan and wellbeing are key to generating new insights into designing and planning health and care services.

Collecting complex demographic and patient datasets across local authority, primary, secondary and community care and combining that with expert analysis can highlight emerging trends and provide an overall picture of adverse health deterioration.

The analysis can pinpoint streets, towns and boroughs where health inequalities are greatest and allow for detailed analysis into their causes. For example, helping to eliminate the situation where inequalities in seaside towns are masked by data which includes more affluent areas nearby.

This detailed insight informs decisions for implementing future services, to make services more accessible to the right people and to put in proactive care, targeted at those areas and cohorts that are harder to reach or more likely to need extra resources in the future. It can also provide a framework to integrate other services such as housing and councils to create an overarching community plan to improve the health and wellbeing of residents in areas affected by inequality.

To make in-roads into the national agenda towards levelling-out health inequalities, we need to get smart and agile about using deep data to plan, manage and target health services during the pandemic, and deal with its long-term consequences.

At Telstra Health UK, our population health analytics service leverages the latest methodologies in advanced analytics and data science to identify clinical variation, health access and inequalities, efficiency savings, predict patient risk and improve patient outcomes. The expansion of Integrated Care Systems across the country presents a great opportunity to redesign how population health is managed, and with robust data, analysis and scalable platforms, the healthcare system will be in a position to extract the insights that they need to eliminate care variation and inequalities.


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