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WMCA to lead £1.6 million programme to help combined authorities level up health

Published: Thursday 09 Mar 2023

The Health Foundation is investing £1.6 million in a major new initiative that will be led by West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to support combined authorities to level up health across regions in England.

Recent Health Foundation analysis shows a wide and growing gap in life expectancy of more than nine years for men and nearly eight years for women between the wealthiest and poorest areas of the country. This stark divide has significant health costs while perpetuating regional disparities in economic growth.

Combined authorities – which bring together local councils under the leadership of elected mayors – now cover more than 40% of England’s population. By using the powers devolved to them by government, they can promote ‘health and wealth’ by driving economic growth and addressing health inequalities.

The Health Foundation’s new programme will provide £1.6 million in funding to boost capacity and support, currently, seven combined authorities to take action to improve health and reduce inequalities across their regions.  

The first year will see the combined authorities work on issues they identify as priorities.

£1.3m of the funding will go directly to WMCA to lead the programme with the remainder being used by The Health Foundation to separately commission a ‘thought partner’ within the sector to focus on fresh knowledge and insights and longer-term reflections on changes taking place as a result.

The WMCA itself is already working with its regional partners to deliver a wide-ranging and long-term action plan aimed at closing the health gap after the Health of the Region report in 2020 and found there were entrenched health inequalities in the West Midlands that had been both exposed and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mubasshir Ajaz, WMCA's head of health and communities and the programme senior responsible officer, said: “This is a huge boost to our efforts to ensure combined authorities have a tangible impact on the health of people living in the regions. It will increase understanding of the available levers to reduce inequalities, help us make significant progress on specific activities, and strengthen collaboration between the combined authorities.”

Jo Bibby, director of health and the Health Foundation, said: “Good health is critical for thriving regions and a growing economy. But we still see stark health inequalities between different parts of England. This programme is a great opportunity to break the cycle of poor health and low economic participation. Combined Authorities, working across their regions, can tackle inequalities head-on and share their experiences with others.  Coordinated action like this will enable them to make tangible changes to the key factors that drive good health so people can live, work and support each other to build sustainable futures.”

Read more about the Improving health and reducing inequalities: Combined Authorities Programme.

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