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Interactive Map Shows Rich-Poor Gap in Life Expectancy

19/07/2012 – London researchers have published a new map revealing a relationship between child poverty and life expectancy in their blog, “Lives on the Line: Life Expectancy and Child Poverty as a Tube Map.”

A new dynamic infographic produced by academics at the University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis tells an interesting story about geography, poverty and health.

The UK’s Telegraph published the interactive map, designed by James Cheshire and Oliver O’Brien. On the map, life expectancy is plotted along with child poverty according to different stations of London’s transit system.

Minutes apart by “the tube” can translate into years shaved off life expectancy, the map reveals.In Britain’s capital city, life expectancy varies by a range of roughly 20 years. Babies who are born into poverty are likely to live fewer decades than those born into richer communities. The gap is starkest between children born around the DLR station near Star Lane and those born near Oxford Circus—about 75 years compared to 96 years, the Telegraph reports.

Areas that appear as moderately deprived in terms of child poverty on the map—such as Charing Cross, Waterloo and Elephant & Castle—show life expectancies around 81 to 85 years old. Some of the other most deprived areas around Bermondsey, Holborn and Wapping have life expectancies 78 or 79.

The average life expectancy among Britons as a whole is 80 years old, up from 72 per cent in the 1970s. This upward trend is expected to continue. Last year, data published by the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions estimated that a fourth of people aged 16 and younger will live to their 100th birthdays, as compared to just under 18 per cent of the population today.

In Canada, the Code Red project in Hamilton discovered a 21-year difference in life expectancies between low- and high-income neighbourhoods, the Toronto Star reports. Among the top social determinants of health are income, education, social support networks and employment, notes the Star.

So, it appears that not all people will share in the gains to human longevity. At the same time, child poverty continues to be an important issue.

The Metro reports that rising poverty is spurring an increase in the number of children eligible for free school meals. One-in-seven schoolchildren (more than a million pupils) now eat for free at school, according to the Children’s Food Trust. Another 40,000 kids have been added to the list since last year.

An estimated 2.2 million schoolchildren live in poverty. The general rule is that if their families make less than £16,190 (CAN$25,643), then children are eligible for school meals. The number of eligible children taking the meals has increased four years in a row.

“Without significant social change . . . the fates of many children living in the poorest parts of London are seemingly already sealed,” wrote the creators of the map in a blog entry today, titled “Lives on the Line: Life Expectancy and Child Poverty as a Tube Map.”

The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis is an interdisciplinary research hub focusing on “digital technologies in geography, space and the built environment,” says the centre’s website.

Oliver O’Brien is a research associate affiliated with the centre and James Cheshire is a lecturer.

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