Today, People’s Health Trust joins members of the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) calling on the Government for immediate action to reduce health inequalities.
As a member of the IHA, the Trust has co-signed a letter to the newly-appointed Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Thérèse Coffey, asking that she prioritises health prevention by honouring a government commitment to publish the Health Disparities White Paper by the end of the year and pushes for a cross-government approach to address widespread inequalities in health
In its Levelling Up White Paper published in February 2022, the Government announced its intention to issue a White Paper on health disparities, which would consider the social determinants of health. Last the week, the Secretary of State set out the Department’s ‘Our Plan for Patients’ which did not include the White Paper. Over 200 members of the IHA are calling for the White Paper’s release in 2022 so that much needed action can be taken to reduce health inequalities.
New research published by the Royal College of Physicians found that 69% of people were worried about the impact of rising energy bills on their ability to heat their homes, while 75% plan to use less heating this winter. The research also showed that 14% would not be able to heat their homes as necessary if a member of their household needed to use more heating than usual to stop their health getting worse, and 12% had been told by a health professional to keep their home warm to avoid ill health. The health concerns surrounding the recent rise in energy bills again shows the link between people’s circumstances and their health.
The near 20-year gap in life expectancy in England between those from the least and most disadvantaged emphasises the need for a cross-government approach to addressing health inequalities encompassing housing, education, childhood poverty, employment, racism and discrimination, transport and air pollution. The letter goes on to say that:
‘Without a cross-government focus on all those issues, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS will be left in the ultimately unsustainable position of trying to treat illness created by the environments people live in. We need to end this cycle and tackle the social determinants of health that present a barrier to good health for so many’
Only through a co-ordinated cross-government strategy will we have any chance of radically reducing the number of people dying early or spending their lives in ill health.
Chief Executive, People's Health Trust
The widespread effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the cost-of-living crisis show how necessary cross-Whitehall participation is to address health inequalities. It is vital that the resulting strategy from the White Paper is considered an essential part of the new Government’s work.
People’s Health Trust Chief Executive, John Hume, said:
”Health inequalities are unjust and damaging, and cost around £33bn. Only through a co-ordinated cross-government strategy will we have any chance of radically reducing the number of people dying early or spending their lives in ill health. As the cost-of-living crisis worsens, marginalised people are at serious risk of ill-health and early death. Urgent action is needed now to address and reverse the trend of widening health inequalities. Health partners and agencies can play their part but the Government cannot kick this pivotal piece of work into the long grass any further.”