Lunchtime Lecture: The Geography of Health

London A54

If you’re a woman born in Kensington and Chelsea, you can look forward to a life expectancy of 91 – a good innings, by all accounts. If you are a man born just a few miles down the road in Deptford/New Cross on the other hand you can expect to live to just 72. This startling contrast took everyone at Dr Paul Turner’s lecture on the Geography of Health by surprise.

The illnesses you are likely to suffer from, the treatment you are likely to receive, and indeed your life expectancy, vary wildly depending on where you are born and where you live – and sorry to Blackpudlians but Blackpool took something of a hammering in the statistics that Paul shared with us. The city is the least appealing place to live in England from a health perspective with the highest premature death rate of anywhere in the country plus a ranking of 148 (out of 500) in terms of cancer proliferation. (It does, however, have good beaches.)

We discussed reasons for poor health in this area, particularly in relation to the high incidence of certain illnesses (lung cancer, liver disease and heart disease), which seemed to point towards an unhealthy lifestyle probably including poor diet, smoking and alcohol/drug use. In addition to its poor record in terms of health, Blackpool is top of the list in England for rates of violent crime – with violence of course leading to injury, long-term health problems and even death, this statistic is undoubtedly linked to its high rates of premature death. Paul did, however, caution the students in being too quick to leap to conclusions from the data we examined.

Paul’s talk was very entertaining and we all enjoyed learning from him; he brought humour to what was at its heart a rather dark topic and certainly gave us all a lot of food for thought. As a final snippet, he showed us the Healthier Lives website which students can use to research further information about various areas of the country – and particularly encouraged them to do so prior to interview. Any medics reading this, take note!

Jo Carter