Big mismatches in the life expectancy and development of children living in different council areas have been exposed after data were made public by a health inequalities review.
Figures from the Marmot Review, started by the last government, reveal 44% of English five-year-olds are thought by teachers to be dropping back in their development.
The statistic, based on the teachers' judgement of children's understanding and how they behave, was made public to recognise the first anniversary of the Marmot Review: fair society, healthy lives.
Public health expert and author of the review, Sir Michael Marmot, said: "Health inequalities are a tragic waste of life and health and cost this country tens of billions of pounds every year in lost productivity, welfare payments and costs to the NHS from ill health.
He said the new government's policy of putting the onus of preventing poor health on local authorities was "working in the right direction".
He said: "We need to ensure that local authorities invest money and expertise to ensure long-term reductions in health inequalities."
There is a chasm between the poorest and wealthiest areas when it comes to life expectancy, the figures show. Men live 11 years longer in the most affluent areas, while women exhibit a 10-year gap.
The area with the highest life expectancy in England is Kensington and Chelsea in London, where men typically live 84.4 years and women 89. Both the lowest life expectancy areas are in Lancashire – Blackpool's men live on average 73.7 years and in Manchester, women typically live to be 79.1.
The gap in life expectancy is more than nine years for men in about half the local authorities in England, and is six for women.
Westminster in London has the biggest gap for men, with the richest districts seeing them live an average of 17 years longer than they do in the more deprived areas. Halton and Newcastle upon Tyne exhibits the largest gap for women, just over 11 years.
The local authority with the most even life expectancies for men is Wokingham in Berkshire – where it is just below three years – and Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire, has the most even outcomes for women, just below two years.
Copyright © Press Association 2011