Everyone in our city, no matter where they live or the circumstances they are born into, deserves to live a long and healthy life, writes council leader Bella Sankey. Unfortunately, in Brighton and Hove, as elsewhere in the country, those from the most deprived areas of our city live shorter lives and spend more of their lives in ill health. And healthy life expectancy - the number of years someone can expect to live in full health – is declining in Brighton and Hove. This is simply unacceptable.

Last week we passed a proposal to advance health equity and for Brighton and Hove to follow others in becoming a “Marmot City”. The 2010 Marmot review: Fair Society, Healthy Lives, chaired by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, examined health inequalities across England and what could be done to reduce them. The review found that people living in the poorest neighbourhoods would on average die seven years earlier than those living in the wealthiest areas. The report also found that the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the more likely they were to live in poor health.

Since the publication of the Marmot review, Coventry City and Chesire and Merseyside region have adopted the Marmot framework to drive a more collaborative approach to addressing health inequalities, looking specifically at the social determinants of health inequalities and how they could be addressed in their areas based on local evidence.

We want to take a similar approach to understand how the Marmot framework can be applied locally by underpinning council services and policies. Only by ensuring health equity is an embedded consideration across all council areas can we take the bold action needed to rapidly improve health outcomes and life chances of everyone in our city.

In our quest for health equity, we recognise the need to address the root causes of health disparities. Health doesn’t sit in isolation, it is intrinsically linked to other aspects of our lives. This means that to advance health equity we need to ensure equal access to affordable and quality housing, good education, secure employment, access to leisure facilities and green spaces, and of course a National Health Service that is fit for purpose. The next Labour government will not only get the NHS back on its feet, but also create a National Care Service.

As your Labour council, we are already putting significant focus on health and wellbeing, consulting on a replacement for the King Alfred leisure centre, exploring expanding our swimming pool facilities in the north and east of the city and our playground refurbishment programme, all of which will ensure improved access to health and leisure facilities for our community. The new Hove Beach Park will provide a new public amenity accessible to all, and we’re introducing outdoor gyms at Victoria Recreation Ground, Preston Park and Wish Park to help residents to be physically active.

Brighton and Hove is also fortunate to have community and voluntary organisations who share our ambition to advance health equity. Earlier this month, local charity Together Co won a national award for its work to reduce the devastating impact of loneliness on people’s mental and physical health. The Hangleton and Knoll Project is doing trailblazing work on social and health integration.

And together with the NHS, the council commissions Ageing Well (ageingwellbh.org), a unique city-wide programme of services and activities for people living in Brighton and Hove aged 50 plus work aimed at keeping people well as they age.

Our city is also home to pioneering GP surgeries trialling social prescribing, where a range of local activities, opportunities and support is offered that can improve the health and wellbeing of their patients. As a council, we support this work through various initiatives such as our award-winning Healthwalks scheme and Active For Life programme.

The journey towards health equity is a collective endeavour. I invite every resident, organisation and business in Brighton and Hove to join us in this vital mission. Your engagement, ideas and actions are crucial to shaping a city where health disparities are a thing of the past. Our latest Re-Imagine engagement event in Whitehawk focused on this very issue. My colleagues Councillors Tristram Burden and Bruno de Oliveira listened to the views of residents and heard about the excellent work done locally to help residents live healthy lives.

The pre-pandemic stall in health improvements coupled with widening inequalities underscores the critical variation in healthy life expectancy not only across the country but within our own local areas, sometimes between places mere miles apart. Our mission is clear: nobody’s life expectancy is dictated by their postcode.

Bella Sankey is Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council