A new government report has warned that there is a "consistent 'north/south' divide" when it comes to the health of those living in England, with residents in the north demonstrating signs of poorer overall health than their southern counterparts.
According to Department of Health figures, those living in the north generally have a lower life expectancy and are more likely to be obese or to die from a smoking-related disease than those in the south.
The department's Health Profile of England report, published today, shows that on average, women in the north can expect to live one year less than those in the south, while life expectancy from birth for men is around two years less in northern areas.
While the report reveals that 1.2 million people have stopped smoking since 1998, it also shows that Yorkshire and the Humber, the north-west and the north-east all have higher than average death rates from smoking-related diseases.
Meanwhile the proportion of people in England who eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day remains low, despite recent improvements, with just over a quarter of people in London and the south-east doing so and around a fifth or less of those in Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-east eating the recommended amount.
Commenting on the report, which tracks progress the government has made in improving public health since the publication of the Choosing Health white paper in 2004, Tony Blair told the BBC that in improving health and fitness levels, it was necessary to achieve a balance between avoiding the 'nanny state' and trying to educate people.
"When it has an impact, as it does and will do over the long term, on the whole of the country and our ability to afford the healthcare system, it's our job to put the facts before people," the prime minister stressed.
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