Glasgow’s excess mortality: blame deprivation and housing?

Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network has just published an article by me on cities, health and data. This gave me the chance to revisit what has been a puzzle: what is the cause of Glasgow’s excess mortality, which sees men there dying nearly a decade earlier than in the longest-living urban area in the UK (Kensington and Chelsea)?

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health has been working to find answers, and it has a couple, provisionally. Firstly, it thinks that Glasgow’s deprivation is deeper than the data – which tends to measure whether people are below a threshhold (and therefore qualify for a benefit) – suggests. Secondly, it believes that Glasgow had a particularly bad legacy of poor post-war housing, such as the Red Road tower-blocks that the city attempted to demolish at the weekend.  There are other factors too.

The way the centre researched this is interesting – it compared Glasgow to Manchester and Liverpool, similar cities with similar problems but better health. It has also extended its comparisons internationally, through work with Gothenburg in Sweden; this accessible video provides a quick summary. There are some big differences, largely (although not entirely) in Gothenburg’s favour.

I also spoke to the World Health Organisation about its work on urban health, primarily in poorer countries, and Singapore’s Ministry of Health about the detailed data it gathers. Interesting to see that Singapore is focusing on sugary drinks, as the idea of a sugar tax gets attention in the UK. The full article is here.

Healthcare Network has also recently published a piece by me on NHS seven-day working and IT, looking in particular at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s recently-opened specialist emergency care hospital.