Leading health experts across the north, including from the University of Sheffield, have joined together to respond to worsening health inequalities between the north and the rest of England, which show over half of the north has a lower life expectancy than the worst area in the South.

The scale of the issue has led stakeholders involved in the Due North report, the Health for Wealth report and Well North to link together with leading experts from over 20 northern universities, Public Health England, the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and N8 Research Partnership to form the Northern Universities’ Public Health Alliance (NUPHA).

This alliance includes the University of Sheffield, whose School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) conducts world-leading research in measuring and evaluating public health, well-being and healthcare, translating university research into new treatments and services that will ultimately improve public health.

The new analysis of figures, to coincide with the launch of NUPHA at the International Festival of Public Health, shows in 66 per cent of areas in the north, female life expectancy is lower than the area with the lowest female life expectancy in the south. 

The figures also show that 88 per cent of northern local authorities have a lower female life expectancy than the England average and 86 per cent have a lower male life expectancy.

NUPHA aims to build on the messages of the Due North Report, the early work of the Equal North Network, and latterly the NHSA’s Health for Wealth Report. This initiative hopes to work collaboratively across the North, highlighting the gross inequalities seen within the North itself and between the north and the rest of England.

Elizabeth Goyder, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research and Sheffield (ScHARR) and Sheffield lead for the NIHR School of Public Health Research, said: “NUPHA will be a great opportunity for northern universities to form valuable research collaborations and work together to promote health research and attract vital research funding that will have a great impact for our region.

“The NUPHA will provide a unique opportunity for us to work with a wide range of public health experts and together identify the common challenges and health inequalities we face; creating partnerships that will ultimately make a difference and improve public health.”

Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement, Public Health England, said: “Public Health England welcomes this initiative to network public health expertise across the north and to promote more equitable research funding between the north and south of the country. The NHS Long Term Plan places tackling health inequalities and prevention at its heart so this is a crucial time for research and development to help us take advantage of all the available opportunities to do so. This is an important new alliance which builds on the considerable expertise across the north of England’s universities and local practitioners.”

Professor Paul Johnstone, Regional Director for Public Health England (North), said: “For so long now the north lags behind the rest of the country economically and in health. Due North set out the evidence to underpin action on health inequalities and we have been using this in the last five years since its publication.  New approaches to addressing inequalities are emerging all the time and the NUPHA will be key to supporting practitioners and decision makers with the best evidence.”