Alliance of health organisations calls for ‘urgent action’ on health inequalities
A coalition of nearly 80 organisations in health and care has called on the government to take urgent action to address health inequalities.
The newly formed Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) is demanding a cross-government strategy to reduce what it calls ‘unfair and avoidable differences’ in health outcomes across the population.
Almost two thirds (65%) of those surveyed felt that governments across the UK should be doing to more to address the issue, and 81% agreed that there should be a UK-wide strategy to reduce inequalities in health.
Of those surveyed, 78% agreed that all parts of government in each part of the UK should have to consider the impact of their policies on people who are less well off.
Three quarters (75%) were concerned – 35% very concerned – that the health gap between wealthy and deprived areas is growing.
It comes as the government finds itself under mounting pressure over the issue of providing free school meals during the half term and Christmas holidays, following a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford.
The Inequalities in Health Alliance is a coalition of not-for-profit organisations with an interest in improving the health of the UK, including the British Medical Association (BMA), British Psychological Society, Local Government Association, and Social Work Scotland.
“Health inequalities are not an issue to be addressed once the pandemic is behind us; a focus on them is one way in which we can tackle COVID-19 in the short term, and help to reduce its impact upon the health and prosperity of the UK in the longer term,’ said Royal College of Physicians president, Professor Andrew Goddard.
“That such a large number and wide range of organisations should come together to form the Health Inequalities Alliance is a powerful statement that now is the perfect time to reduce the gap in healthy life expectancy by taking the right steps to reset the NHS, make social care sustainable, and reinvigorate our approach to public health.”
Professor Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity and author of several key reviews looking at health inequalities, added: “The pandemic has exposed and amplified underlying inequalities in society. Health inequalities are the result. Tackling the social causes of health inequalities is even more urgent now. It is so important that these health care organisations have taken a leadership role in improving the health of the whole of society.”