Shailesh Vara addresses dip in life expectancy for poorer Derry men
British Secretary of State Shailesh Vara has said the regression of male life spans in poorer districts of Derry to below that of citizens of Syria, Libya and North Korea is a situation that ‘needs to improve’.
Mr. Vara, who made his first visit to the city in the role at the end of last week, claimed his government is taking steps to address social deprivation.
Life expectancy among poorer men in Derry/Strabane fell last year. As reported in the ‘Journal’ in April figures in the Department of Health’s ‘Health Inequalities Annual Report 2022’ showed male life expectancy in the city’s most deprived areas was 72.3 years . This was a year-on-year decrease of 0.2 years (73 days) from 72.5 in 2021.
The decrease means men in poorer parts of Derry can expect to live shorter lives than an average citizen in North Korea (72.45 years), Libya (73.08 years) and Syria (73.65 years) - according to World Bank estimates.
The ‘Journal’ asked Mr. Vara if this was not a matter of shame. He replied: “I think what you need to do is to certainly improve that situation.”
Mr. Vara referred to the £250m City Deal package that has been ring-fenced for Derry. “This is serious money to help revitalise the whole of the north west. It will provide jobs, opportunities, prosperity, and a boost to the local economy.
"That’s what we need to be doing and again I come back to the point that the boost that we need here will happen if all the people and the organisations concerned are working together and one of those key players is the Executive. But I want the Executive up and running.”
The Secretary of State pointed to £16m that has been allocated through the UK Levelling Up fund; to £127m that is being provided to the north via the UK Shared Prosperity Fund; and to £55m that will be invested in the north west in the Inclusive Future Fund.
“Funds are being made available. There is £55m available specifically for the north west to address social deprivation, so we as a government are trying to make the funds available. What we do need is a functioning Executive to help us to use that money effectively,” he said.