The Royal College of Physicians has released a new resource to help physicians address health inequalities in their practice after a survey revealed more than two thirds of clinicians had not received training on the issue.
Health inequalities are the avoidable, unfair and systematic differences in health between different groups. People’s health is shaped by many social factors, including smoking, obesity, air pollution, food quality, employment and income, and access to transport links.
Polling by the RCP in May 2022 found that 55% of people felt their health had been negatively affected by the rising cost of living, with the increasing costs of heating (84%), food (78%) and transport (46%) reported as the top three factors. Worryingly, a December 2022 RCP member survey then revealed that 31% of the physicians surveyed said they had seen more people with illness due to their living conditions in the prior three months.
Despite the increasing impact of these inequalities on public health, an RCP report from March 2023, which surveyed almost 1,000 clinicians, found that 67% of respondents had not received teaching or training in health inequalities within a training programme or as part of their degree. Only 26% reported they felt confident in their ability to reduce the impact of health inequalities in their medical practice.
So, to support clinicians, the RCP has produced an e-learning resource which includes practical suggestions to alter interactions with those at risk of health inequalities, changes in behaviour in managing such patients, and principles to approaching each patient as an individual whose own experiences and circumstances affect their interaction with healthcare.
RCP’s academic vice president Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam said:
“As the convenor of the Inequalities in Health Alliance, the RCP has been calling for a cross government strategy to reduce health inequalities which pulls at every policy lever available to tackle social determinants which cause them.
“However, based on discussions with our own members, it was clear to us that available educational opportunities for clinicians are crucial to ensure physicians feel equipped to tackle the challenges around health inequalities they are seeing in their own practice.
“This new resource, which is available to both RCP members and non-members, will do exactly that. Ultimately, it will help to improve patient wellbeing, reduce demand on the NHS and work to create a more productive and healthy society.”
Health Inequalities: changing behaviours in healthcare is a programme free for all RCP members and £30 for non-members. Visit the RCP website to sign up or find out more.