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Vital Signs North East: Health

Our ground-breaking study of the scale, dynamics and needs of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in North East England.

Health challenges

In the North East, health problems are compounded by poverty, resulting in health inequity. And there is a stark difference in life expectancy and quality in the North East when compared to the England average. Philanthropy cannot fill gaps in public sector funding and provision of health and care services. But it can focus on issues most able to be addressed through early interventions and which present the biggest health risks. We need to improve people’s awareness of how the choices we all make impact on our health and build confidence required to adopt healthier behaviours. We also need to invest in communities to tackle the wider circumstances that contribute to ill health. Of particular importance is the support charitable funding can offer to improve mental health.

  • National challenges: significant pressure of people being overweight or obese; pandemic exposure of weaknesses in public health and social care; long-term sickness including from mental health issues.
  • North East England challenges: people are more likely to have a shorter lifespan and to spend a larger proportion of their lives in poor health. They are also more likely to die prematurely from preventable diseases. Significant gaps in life expectancy between the region’s least and most disadvantaged areas.

Health indicator North East England South East
Life expectancy 81.2 (female)

77.2 (male)

82.8 (female)

78.9 (male)

83.8 (female)

80.1 (male)

Expected years of good health 59.0 (female)

59.4 (male)

63.5 (female)

63.2 (male)

65.8 (female)

65.5 (male)

% adults overweight or obese 69.7 63.5 62.4
% adults who smoke cigarettes 13.1 12.7 11.5
% adults drinking more than 14 alcohol units a week 24 21 22
% adults doing 150 mins or more a week of physical activity 60.9 64.2 66.5
Child obesity at year 6 20.3% (female)

26.1% (male)

18.4% (female)

23.6% (male)

15.7% (female)

19.8% (male)

Deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people 12.8 10.5 10.4



Health opportunities

Despite the challenges there are a number of opportunities in North East England via:

  • Integrated plan by the Integrated Care Partnership for North East England and North Cumbria to improve health and care involving the NHS, councils and voluntary sector
  • Generally good uptake of vaccinations compared to England average
  • Significant skill and reach among civil society organisations that are addressing health issues and diverting people from ‘risky’ behaviour

The Community Foundation believes that philanthropy can play a positive role in building lifelong better health in three ways.

Addressing root causes of ill-health and health inequality:

  • services for women supporting informed choices about pregnancy and good maternal health
  • early years’ provision, particularly in poorer communities
  • healthy living and physical activities for young people
  • food banks, community transport, advice, counselling and other services which help to address the effects of poverty on physical and mental health

Read the full report here

Funding and supporting community organisations that address gaps or add value to other services:

  • activities for adults which address isolation, poor diet, drinking and smoking and promote healthier lifestyles
  • access to dental products and ‘last-resort’ services for people most in need
  • targeted crisis, information, advice, advocacy and recovery services for those at greatest risk of poor mental and physical health

Read the full report here

Tackling health issues for people who are at most risk of social exclusion:

  • community hubs that can provide accessible health resources and services
  • services for older people, disabled people, people from Black, Asian and minoritised ethnic backgrounds and those from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities
  • advocacy and lobbying which gives people a voice and removes barriers

Read the full report here

Vital Signs Reports

The most recent reports from Vital Signs are here