The Health Foundation’s new inquiry, published on 6 July reveal working age adults in England’s most disadvantaged areas were almost four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the wealthiest areas.
The inquiry gathered extensive evidence of the impact of social determinants of health on COVID-19 death rates. Existing poor health, reflecting wider inequalities in people’s circumstances, put people at higher risk of death once exposed to the virus. Factors including type and quality of work, housing conditions, and access to financial support to self-isolate all contributed to increased exposure to the virus among working age adults.
The inquiry also explored the disproportionate impact of the pandemic across certain groups. People from ethnic minority communities, young people, those suffering from mental health conditions and disabled people in particular experienced worsening and compounding inequalities, increasing their exposure to COVID-19 and threatening their future health. People’s Health Trust’s upcoming report on the impact of the pandemic in the communities we invest in has also found that similar groups have been disproportionately affected in a number of ways.
Jo Bibby, Director of the Health Foundation, said:
“Government must address the root causes of poor health and invest in jobs, housing, education and communities. This is the only way to create a healthier society that can meet the challenge ahead and better withstand future crises.”
Dame Clare Moriarty, Chair of the COVID-19 Impact Inquiry, and (now) Chief Executive of Citizens Advice added:
“We need to aim for a recovery that builds economic and social resilience, with ‘levelling up’ not limited to geographical areas of disadvantage but that addresses the needs of groups who have experienced the most damaging impacts of the pandemic.”
The inquiry also explored areas of opportunity to improve health that have emerged during the pandemic and recognised the role of community organisations in building resilience and strengthening local communities. The research found increased public awareness of pre-existing inequalities and the disproportionate effect they have on the lives of some groups, as well as support for addressing health inequalities as an important part of the government’s role in recovery. Eight in ten people in the UK agree that government must address the unequal health outcomes between those living in richer and poorer areas. There must now be a concerted effort to ensure the recovery improves health, as well as the economy.
People’s Health Trust joins the Health Foundation in calling for a cross-government health inequalities strategy with explicit targets for improvement, a comprehensive set of metrics and an independent body to assess progress. We must take action now to address the immediate affects of the pandemic in the short term, address the systemic inequalities exposed by COVID and create a fairer, healthier society.
People’s Health Trust will be publishing our latest report on the impact of the pandemic on our funded partners, who work in communities experiencing disadvantage and inequality across Great Britain later this month.
The Trust gave evidence to the inquiry informed by the experiences of our funded partners.