Leeds UK Healthy City



Leeds is the UK’s third largest city with a population of around 800’000, expected to rise to 1 million by 2030. It’s a modern and diverse city and is one of the fastest-growing in the UK. Residents come from over 140 different ethnic groups and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups make up almost 18% of the population. Leeds is expecting to see an increase in the numbers of those aged over 75 and over 85 in the coming years, as well as an increase in children of primary school age. Leeds is one of the greenest cities in the UK with 20 major parks and two thirds of the district is classified as rural. In total Leeds is made up of 28 town, market towns and district centres. Despite the economic downturn, the city’s economy is considered to be one of the most resilient in the UK due to the variety and breadth. It has markedly changed from being dominated by industry to now being a key centre for finance, business, retail, healthcare, creative industries and legal services as well as a continued strength in manufacturing. Leeds remains a major centre for development with £4.3 billion worth of schemes completed in the last decade, the most recent being the Leeds arena which is due for completion in spring 2013 and will bring a major boost in terms of economic and cultural benefits. The current employment rate is 69%. Leeds has one of the highest student populations with over 60,000 attending one of three universities. Leeds is home to the largest teaching hospital in the whole of Europe and is also set to be the home of the new NHS Commissioning Board and HealthWatch England.

Health and Wellbeing in Leeds

  • The health of people in Leeds is generally worse than the England average, which is strongly associated with the high levels of deprivation experienced by the 150,000 people in Leeds who are living in the most deprived neighbourhoods nationally.
  • Although overall life expectancy has been increasing for all Leeds residents, the life expectancy for a man living in a deprived Leeds neighbourhood is 12 years lower than a man living in an affluent part of Leeds.
  • It is estimated that adult healthy eating, smoking and obesity levels are worse than the England average, with smoking-related and alcohol-related hospital admission rates above average.
  • The high prevalence of smoking in people with low incomes, compared to the rest of Leeds, is the biggest preventable cause of ill health and early death in the city.

Key achievements

  • Leeds has earned national recognition for some key pieces of work that includes beacon status for partnership working; for promoting financial inclusion and tackling over-indebtedness; and for work to embed the National Healthy Schools standards across the city.
  • A new approach to planning for the future using Outcomes Based Accountability is now underway and has seen work to reduce health inequalities become a cross cutting priority for all partnership boards in the city. This will be a great start for getting shared ownership for this important area of work.
  • Through its Infant Mortality Action Plan Leeds is now seeing the infant mortality rate in deprived neighbourhoods decline rapidly. Nationally there has been limited progress in this area but in Leeds the local targets have been exceeded.
  • Leeds is starting to complete health impact assessments on major planning decisions. This has recently included the Local Development Framework.


Leeds’ Healthy City Story

Leeds is one of the newest members of the Healthy Cities Network, joining in early 2012. The city became a member to be able to join up with cities who are facing similar problems such as tackling the worsening health inequalities which blight deprived neighbourhoods. Affiliation with the network will help the city learn from others about integrating health priorities into the work of other partnerships who might not see health as their business. As an early implementer of the Health and Wellbeing Board, Leeds also hopes to contribute to nationwide work by bringing the health reforms into a reality.

Future plans and activities

Health and health equity in all local policies – Led by the Leeds Initiative Board, all five partnership boards (which include a Health and Wellbeing Board, Children’s Trust Board, Sustainable Economy and Culture Board, Housing and Regeneration Board, and Safer and Stronger Communities Board) will now be held to account to make sure they can demonstrate how they will be tackling poverty and health inequality in their own areas of work. This shared ownership of the inequalities agenda is a welcome culture change for Leeds.

Caring and supportive environments – The Leeds health and social care service transformation programme is moving towards better integration of health and social care services in order to provide better quality services for customers and to improve their overall experience of being in the care system. Currently three integrated health and social care team pilots are running across the city to demonstrate the benefits of this work. People will be supported to remain independent for longer and will have more control over their own health and wellbeing.

Healthy living – Our most recently developed Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy and Tobacco Control Strategy have some fantastic examples of cross partnership commitment to reducing the harms of alcohol and smoking. There has been a real achievement in broadening out the ownership of their agendas. To complement this an information hub has been launched by NHS Leeds and Leeds City Council to improve signposting to health and wellbeing services.

Councillor Quote

"We have the ambition of making Leeds the best city in the UK for health and wellbeing and joining the Healthy Cities network helps us get one step closer to that vision. We are facing huge challenges in Leeds that include a widening inequalities gap, an ageing population as well as a big reduction in public sector funding. We’re looking forward to learning from peer cities in a similar situation to ourselves as well as actively taking part in the network to pass on our knowledge and experiences."
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council


The UK Healthy Cities Network is an accredited member of the WHO European Healthy Cities Programme

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