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Over 90 senior representatives of the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) have written to the Prime Minister calling for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities.
The letter makes calls for a cross-government health inequalities strategy with clear measurable goals, that consider the role of every department and every available policy lever. The RCP has also today published a position paper about the need for a cross-government strategy.
The position paper includes real life stories of how people’s health is damaged by social factors such as poor housing. These include:
- An extremely malnourished and dehydrated patient, eventually admitted to hospital with sepsis, regularly missing meals so that she was able to feed her teenage son and afraid to call her GP for fear that he would be ‘taken into care’.
- A clinic providing bus passes because otherwise patients’ health deteriorated because they could not afford to attend for regular monitoring or treatment.
- A patient whose asthma worsened when his landlord refused to fix mould in his private rented accommodation and instead evicted him.
- A patient with obesity and diabetes who ate all his meals in fried chicken shops because he and his family lived in a grossly overcrowded apartment with no kitchen.
The IHA says it has been ‘encouraged’ by commitments such as the Office for Health Improvement & Disparities, Levelling Up agenda and the cross-government ministerial board on prevention which all hold ‘great potential to be the catalyst we need to tackle health inequalities’. However, for this to work, it must be be underpinned and strengthened with a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities that is led by, and accountable to, the prime minister.
Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “COVID-19 acted as a flag to unite behind. Now that we are emerging from the worst phases of the pandemic, we need a new flag. Reducing health inequalities is that flag because they have never been as big in modern times and the need to reduce them never more apparent.”