The WMAHSN creates and supports an environment in which the health and wealth of the population of the West Midlands can improve and prosper. The wellbeing of our citizens and the continuous improvement in safe care and better outcomes for those in need are the driving force behind the WMAHSN and its partner organisations.
The WMAHSN footprint extends across 13,000 square kilometres of a geographically diverse region, ranging from the intensely urbanised areas of the centre conurbation to the rural counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire in the Welsh Marches, pastoral Warwickshire and Worcester to the south and the rugged Staffordshire Moorlands to the North.
We have a population of 5.9 million, made up of a diverse socio-economic mix. The West Midlands includes both a large number of elderly residents while also having the youngest population in the UK. Birmingham is the youngest city in Europe, with the under 25s accounting for nearly 40% of the population.
Of the population, 2.9 million live in the metropolitan districts of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
The regional employment base has changed gradually from one that contained a considerable, heavy manufacturing component to a more service-based economy (between 1999 and 2018, there was a 10 point decline from 20% of the workforce being in manufacturing jobs to just 10%).
Comparison of a range of health indicators in the West Midlands versus the rest of England reveals evidence of significant health inequality. In terms of fertility, the West Midlands has the highest birth rate in England. It also has the highest infant mortality rate and during the shift from a manufacturing to a service-based economy, it was the only region in which poverty and child poverty increased.
In 2016 to 2018, the life expectancy for females in the West Midlands was 82.7 years, 1.8 years less than in London where the life expectancy was estimated to be highest. The life expectancy for males was 78.9 years, 1.8 years less than in the South East and London, which had the highest life expectancy. One third of West Midlands local authorities have identified particular issues in relation to:
Childhood obesity, deaths by all causes, deaths related to asthma and infant mortality were all higher than the figures for England. The region has significant levels of inherited rare diseases, largely due to consanguinity within elements of its population.
By contrast, some indicators were better than the England average. The level of alcohol consumption by women was lower than the England average (11 per cent versus 15 per cent), and the incidence of lung cancer among women was also lower than the England average.
Despite these statistics, which typically characterise the deprived areas, there are many affluent communities where the correspondingly different indices of health only serve to highlight the extent of the inequalities that exist.