<i>The West Midlands has the highest rate of infant mortality and obesity in women in the country, according to a new report published today.
Health Reporter Emma Brady spoke to the region's director of public health Dr Rashmi Shukla to find out why...</i>
Seven out of every 1,000 babies born in the West Midlands will die before they reach their first birthday - a higher proportion than in any other part of England.
Of those, nearly 60 per cent will die within their first week of life, or be stillborn.
This is just one of many worrying statistics contained within the Choosing Health for the West Midlands report.
It identifies a raft of health inequalities in key areas such as alcohol and drugs, life expectancy, mental health, obesity, sexual health and smoking.
By examining the effect and cost these inequalities have on the region's population, the West Midland Public Health Group report reveals marked differences in the health of social groups and in geographical areas.
People living in Lichfield reach an average age of 83.61 years, while those in central Birmingham have a much lower life expectancy of 73.38 years.
But the divide is not just down to people's ability to access frontline NHS services. People's living and working conditions - as well as lifestyle choices - also play a major part in the equation.
Dr Rashmi Shukla, regional director of public health said: "This report is important as it brings together everything we know about health inequalities in the West Midlands and makes positive suggestions as to how we can tackle them to ensure that, in years to come, some areas' health inequalities don't widen as you travel from one place to another.
"This isn't just about addressing primary care trusts or other NHS organisations in terms of what they can do to provide health services, it's about getting the message out to the public so they can help themselves."
The West Midlands also has the highest level of obesity in women, with six out of ten being either overweight or obese, and four per cent classed as morbidly obese.
Men are not far behind, with two-thirds described as being overweight or obese, and two per cent classified as morbidly obese.
"Obesity is a major factor in the health of our region. We cannot underestimate the importance of regular physical activity and eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day," added Dr Shukla.
"Jamie Oliver's initiative to improve school dinners has been a wonderful role model for children and parents, but unless they heed advice over healthy eating, they could be stacking up health problems in later life."
Only 39 per cent of the region's population take some form of moderate exercise - such as walking - for 30 minutes five times a week, and less than a quarter of men and women eat the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
But these are not the only pressing concerns highlighted by the report.
Sexually transmitted infections are rising - most notably HIV, chlamydia and syphilis - with most new cases being diagnosed in heterosexual adults.
Dr Shukla said: "We need to be more creative about how we tackle these issues, particularly reducing the incidence of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, which are particularly high in the 16 to 19 age group.
"Most worrying is that one in 100 women in that age group have had chlamydia, which can lead to fertility problems or ectopic pregnancies if it is not diagnosed or treated."
Between 1999 and 2003, the number of alcohol-related deaths and the number of "excess winter deaths" in the region continued to rise, with more than 3,000 vulnerable adults dying from cold-related conditions - the worst rate in the country.
Dr Shukla added: "We don't want to be the worst in England in any of these areas, we want to be the best instead. That's what we have to work towards now, reducing these inequalities across the board."