Students have been testing out a simulation designed to reduce glaring differences in life expectancy in the North East.
Scientists from the Initiative on Changing Age were at Walker Technology College, Newcastle, to try out their pioneering simulation.
It is designed to create formulae based on people’s lifestyle and health makeup that will boost their life expectancy. As is stands, people living less than eight miles apart – just minutes on the Tyne and Wear Metro – face 11 years’ difference in how long they are expected to lead healthy and active lives before serious disease or disability.
The simulation – which could be rolled out across the country thus saving the NHS millions – has already been tested by medical students at Newcastle University.
Claire Goodwill, head of Sixth Form at Walker Technology College, said: “We are delighted to have chosen to be part of what is a hugely important project, not only here in Walker, but also across the North East and other parts of the country.
“Our students are looking forward to having an integral part in identifying ways of closing this huge gap in healthy inequality.”
The aim of the simulation is to halve the gap in healthy life expectancy between social classes in the North East for people aged 55 in the next ten years. This age is seen as the “last chance saloon” for tackling long lasting health problems.
Professor Tom Kirkwood, director of Newcastle University’s Initiative on Changing Age, said: “It is urgent we find new ways to reduce inequalities in health across our region and elsewhere. We are living longer and we want the benefits to be shared by all, so that the extra years we are gaining are genuinely worth having.
“The simulation allows us to bring fresh energy to finding new ways to tackle the unacceptable unfairness that currently exists in the length of time people can expect to live without debilitating health issues.
“The gains will be good for maintaining quality of life as well as for avoiding preventable high-cost dependency.”
Age-related chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers, are all made more likely by a combination of environment and lifestyle, including poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol.
Professor Peter Gore, Newcastle University’s professor of practice for ageing and vitality, said: “This is a very scientific tool but it has been designed to be understood by everyone. To succeed in change we need to hear the voice of the people as well as the experts. By using the simulation they will become better informed and we hope more likely to promote the health policies that they select to close the gap.”