The Inequalities in Health Alliance is a coalition of organisations with an interest in improving the health of the UK who have come together to campaign for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities.
In February 2020, following the publication of Health Equity in England: the Marmot review 10 years on, the RCP wrote to the prime minister along with other Medical Royal Colleges and the Royal Colleges of Midwifery and Nursing. We urged him to adopt the recommendations of the report and go a little further.
Since then, we have convened a larger group of organisations under the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA).
Membership is open to any not-for-profit organisation that has an interest in reducing health inequality, particularly those working in the areas of health, social care and local government.
In October 2020, we wrote to the prime minister to ask the government to do three things:
- develop a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities
- commence the socio-economic duty, section 1 of the Equality Act 2010
- adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach.
We did not receive a response to that letter. In February 2021, we wrote again to the prime minister to reiterate these three aims and to request a meeting to discuss the government’s approach to reducing health inequalities.
A cross-government strategy is required because health inequality is the result of many and varied factors. As the Secretary of State for Social Services said in his foreword to the 1980 Black Report, “the influences at work in explaining the relative health experience of different parts of our society are many and interrelated.” All parts of government and public services need to adopt reducing health inequality as a priority.
The socio-economic duty is key to ensure that the needs of vulnerable people, who can all too often be forgotten, are considered in every decision. It is vital that the impact of policies made at the highest level of government on the poorest in society are weighed up before final decisions are made. This gives us the best chance at avoiding unintended consequences falling disproportionately on the most disadvantaged.
Finally, the importance of early years for adult outcomes is also well known. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the importance of high levels of general good health. For example, we have seen all too clearly that by allowing more and more children to become obese in the past we increased their risk of dying from COVID-19 in the present. We need to be prepared for future pandemics, and make sure all public policy is focused on making sure every child has the best chance of good health throughout their life.
There is a moral case for tackling health inequalities, and it is important to the public too. In 2020 we commissioned a public opinion poll by Populus, which found that
- 81% agreed that there should be a UK government strategy to reduce health inequality
- 78% agreed that all parts of government in each part of the UK should have to consider the impact of their policies on the less well off.
When asked which one aspect of health inequality concerned them the most, 24% said access to health care, followed by the prevalence of poor mental health at 17% and long term health conditions at 16%.
We will keep our members and partners updated as this work progresses. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us via email@example.com.