PUBLIC health will be “at the heart” of the new Conservative administration, the recently appointed cabinet member for wellbeing has pledged.

Cllr Susan Baines, who was given the new wellbeing portfolio in May, described it as an “exciting development”.

She hopes it will help the council go forward in all areas while focusing on all factors which affect people’s health, both physical and mental.

She said: “It is a clear step forward for the people of the borough. Public health will be positioned at the heart of all we aim to do as a council administration for the future.”

The Horwich and Blackrod councillor, who has a background in healthcare, was elected in May 2018.

Life expectancy in her ward is similar to the average in Bolton, which is 77.8 years for males and 81.6 years for females.

Compared with the other 10 Greater Manchester boroughs, Bolton ranks fourth for men but eighth for women.

However, for the first time in a decade, life expectancy has stalled for men and is going backwards for women.

Cllr Baines said that this pattern emerging in Bolton reflects national figures.

She said: “Much effort and support has been focused on the areas that require the most need and are able to achieve the best improvements in life expectancy.

“Therefore, our approach in Bolton has been focused around the social determinants of health, working with schools to support the mile a day, with the regeneration to improve housing and employment.”

The reason for changes in life expectancy has been investigated by Public Health England who report that there are multiple health factors including the ageing population.

More specifically, the reduction has been caused by an increase in the number of deaths post 2011.

This meant that certain age groups did not improve as they had done in previous years.

The leading cause of death for 20 to 44-year-olds was accidental poisoning, mostly due to substance misuse and, increase in suicide for women.

For 45 to 64-year-olds, it was chronic respiratory disease for both men and women, followed by liver cirrhosis.

For over-65s, the leading cause of death was dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Labour spokesman for wellbeing, Cllr Sue Haworth, said the national government is “hugely important” in driving reducing health inequality.

She said: “We need a government that will divert resources to improve the life experiences of children whose brain development is inhibited by stress. Children in the less affluent wards are the ones who need the help. Good children’s and family services are vital.

“National government also needs to increase resources in Bolton so greater improvements can be made to rented housing and neighbourhoods. The other issue needed is improved educational opportunities for children and adults. Nurseries, schools and colleges need investment.

“They are three key proven social determinants of health. The ‘change your health habits’ agenda is important but without the above we know we will not likely close the health inequalities gap in the Borough.”