Local government funding cuts in recent years have cost lives, study finds

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A new study from researchers at the University of Liverpool shows that declining funding to local governments in recent years has likely contributed to declining life expectancy in parts of England, which was stagnant even before the pandemic of COVID-19.

Local government financing and life expectancy in England, a longitudinal ecological study published in Lancet Public Health, linked annual local government funding data from the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government with life expectancy and mortality data from Public Health England between 2013 and 2017.

Corresponding author Dr Alexandros Alexiou said: “Since 2010, significant cuts in funding for local public services have been introduced in England, resulting in a reduction in the provision of public health promotion services. . We wanted to determine whether areas that had a larger drop in funding also had more unfavorable trends in life expectancy and premature mortality.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the blocking of life expectancy in England was a major public health problem, and the causes were unclear.

“Our research shows that cuts to local government over the past few years have likely cost lives. We have found that during a period of sharp cuts in local government funding in England, the areas that have suffered the most cuts also experienced slower improvements or decline in life As funding for the most disadvantaged areas declined further, they were the ones who suffered the most negative impact – widening health inequalities.

“This has important implications for current policy and for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. ”

On average, between 2013 and 2017, central local government funding decreased by 33% or £ 168 per person in total. Each £ 100 reduction in funding per person was associated with a decrease of 1.3 months in life expectancy for men and 1.2 months in life expectancy for women.

As funding cuts were greater in poorer areas, these places were more severely affected, increasing the gap in life expectancy between these places and richer areas. The researchers estimated that the funding cuts increased the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas by 3% for men and 4% for women. Overall reductions in funding over this period have been associated with an additional 9,600 deaths among those under the age of 75.

Dr Alexiou added: “Our study suggests that the reduction in funding for local services which have disproportionately affected disadvantaged areas has had a significant impact on health. The UK government has said austerity is over and has gone downhill. is committed to investing more to “upgrade” places that have already been “left behind.” Fair and equitable investments in local public services can correct these inequalities, enabling the country to “build back better”.

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This work was funded by the NIHR and the MRC.

The full article is available in the Lancet Public Health, here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(21)00110-9/fulltext

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