They may only be a short bus ride away from one another — but the difference between living in Belfast city centre and the top of the Malone Road can make a massive difference to your health.
People living in the heart of Belfast will, on average, die up to nine years earlier than residents of the leafy south Belfast suburb.
Health Minister Edwin Poots his issued a proposal to address this statistic and other health inequalities.
He has urged people across Northern Ireland to take responsibility for their own health and make simple lifestyle changes that could save their lives.
In order to highlight the devastating difference, Mr Poots boarded the bus from Donegall Square to Finaghy Road South yesterday morning.
As the journey lasted only 20 minutes it was even more shocking that life expectancy of people living along this bus route differs by up to nine years. Mr Poots said: “I am committed to improving the health of our population. We have seen many improvements and people are living longer than before. However, those who are disadvantaged in our society do not have an equal chance of experiencing good health and wellbeing.
“Too many still die prematurely or live with conditions that they need not have.”
Mr Poots said he is particularly determined to address public health inequalities in children to prevent them from developing potentially fatal diseases.
“Too many people are in hospital with preventable conditions and this is putting a real burden on the health service,” he said.
“I want to see changes made now that will benefit everyone in one generation — such as making it more difficult for children to take up smoking.
“The Public Health Agency is working with community groups so they can help people on the ground improve their health. This is not about being a nanny state, this is about educating people so they can make decisions to help themselves.”
Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride was also present on the bus and said: “Coronary heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease continue to be the main causes of death for both sexes.
“Many of these deaths occur before 65 years of age and are potentially preventable, since smoking, unhealthy diet, raised blood pressure, diabetes and physical inactivity are major contributors to many of these conditions.”
The new strategy — called Fit And Well: Changing Lives — aims to ensure the best possible health status for the population of Northern Ireland. Among its aims are that children have safe and supportive family, living, play and learning environments, young adults have access to training or job opportunities and that people in later years can participate in the community. To view the draft framework or respond to the consultation visit www.dhsspsni.gov.uk