A coalition of nearly 80 organisations has called on the government to take urgent action to address health inequalities.
The Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) is demanding a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities and unfair and avoidable differences in health across the population.
It comes as new research commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians for the launch of the IHA shows widespread concern over health inequalities and overwhelming support for action.
Almost two thirds (65%) of those surveyed by Yonder felt that governments across the UK should be doing to more to address the issue and 81% agreed (52% strongly) that there should be a UK government 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.
And nearly a quarter (24%) selected access to healthcare as the health inequality they were most concerned about, with 17% opting for poor mental health and 16% long term health conditions.
It comes as the government finds itself under fire over the issue of providing free school meals during the half term and Christmas holidays, following a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford.
‘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 RCP 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.’
Photo Credit – Skeeze (Pixabay)