Parts of Banbury 'significantly worse' than national average for some health issues

A woman in Ruscote, Banbury, can expect to live ten years less than her counterpart in north Oxford
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While an Oxfordshire County Council report on tackling health inequality found the county to be an “affluent and healthy county overall”, a woman who lives in Wolvercote, in north Oxford, can expect to live into her 90s while in Banbury Ruscote or Northfield Brook in south Oxford, she would be statistically unlikely to reach 80.

Childhood obesity rates in the Blackbird Leys ward of south Oxford is almost double that of the rest of the county with Banbury Ruscote again among the areas performing significantly worse than national and county figures.

Banbury Ruscote and Blackbird Leys are Oxfordshire’s two areas that are “significantly worse” than the national average rate for hospital admissions with coronary heart disease and Banbury Ruscote has approximately double the rate of death “from causes considered preventable” for those aged under 75.

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s director of public health and wellbeing, detailed a three-tier approach with a focus on physical activity, healthy weight, mental wellbeing and helping people to cut out smoking when addressing the county’s People Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

The county’s 10 most deprived wards – Abingdon Caldecott, Banbury Cross and Neithrop, Banbury Grimsbury and Hightown, Banbury Ruscote, Barton and Sandhills (east Oxford), Blackbird Leys, Carfax (Oxford), Littlemore (south Oxford), Northfield Brook (south Oxford) and Rose Hill & Iffley (south Oxford) – will be prioritised early on and part of the plans will involve a forum between many different departments responsible for things like access to green space and supporting active travel.

One of the concerns highlighted by councillors was having too many groups and meetings and not enough action.

Cllr Andy Graham (Lib Dem, Woodstock) added: “What tends to happen is that institutions create these forums, bodies, things, yet they become more distant from the people that benefit because they are not engaged.”

Cllr Michael Waine (Con, Bicester Town) said: “I was talking to someone who back in the summer took on a job in the public sector, I asked how they were getting on and they said that life was arranged around meetings and emails about meetings, preparation for meetings.

“She felt she was unable to do her core job. I just worry about the number of forums and meetings to discuss what needs to be done when we need action on the ground.”

Mr Azhar replied: “This is making sure there is notification of work, health inequality brings in health partners, the county council and wider partners. We need a way of bringing all of that together so we are working towards the same outcomes without duplicating work.”

Cllr Graham also stressed the importance of being “very cautious” about highlighted areas of deprivation and creating “a net that other people fall through”, particularly in rural areas.

“I understand the numbers game but there is significant health inequality in rural areas and we must get away from this stereotypical perception that rural areas are affluent. It is not true,” he added.

Committee chair Cllr Ian Corkin (Con, Ploughley) argued that “deprivation is hiding in plain sight” in some rural areas. Mr Azhar acknowledged it is sometimes “so hidden” that it does not get picked up but said the regions were “merely a conversation starter” as part of a “proportionate” response, despite demand for services “very disproportionately” coming from the 10 areas.

Mr Azhar concluded by saying: “Tackling health inequality is a partnership responsibility across all the systems.

“If we go away thinking it is a public health responsibility we will have failed. This is a partnership approach.”