In 2019 the RCP continued its history of work on improving population health with the establishment of an advisory group on reducing inequalities in health and wellbeing.
The RCP Council convened the group following its agreement of the RCP policy and campaigns priorities. Its role is to help the RCP develop a strategy for reducing inequalities in health and wellbeing in populations, including those enhanced by access and uptake of effective health and care services.
Our fellows and members are concerned that large swathes of the UK population are being left behind in terms of their health. That life expectancy has stopped improving for the first time since 1982 is a worry, but the fact it has decreased in some areas is highly concerning.
In its Health Profile for England: 2018, Public Health England reported that the gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas of England was around 19 years. Then in its Health Profile for England: 2021, it said the level of inequality in life expectancy was “larger than all previous years we have data for, which is the last 2 decades”. While COVID-19 was a key factor, “higher mortality from heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases in deprived areas remained important contributors.”
The advisory group is chaired by Professor Carol Brayne, Professor of Public Health Medicine at the University of Cambridge, director of the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, and chair of the Faculty of Public Health’s academic and research committee.
It brings together the RCP academic vice president, RCP special advisers and lead fellows on public health issues, the RCP trainees committee, the RCP patient and carer network, and The Health Foundation. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the Institute of Health Equity, is special adviser to the group.
What we are doing
The advisory group oversees two main strands of work. One is focused on how the RCP supports its members and the wider health and care workforce to address health inequality. The other is focused on working with government, NHS England and others to reduce health inequality.
The advisory group has overseen and individual members have been involved in:
- the updating of our Introduction to the social determinants of health course
- the ongoing development of a new course on addressing health inequality
- the clinical fellow in health inequality project
- working with the NHS England health inequalities team to develop the National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme (HiQiP), particularly to improve data collection
- the development of the Inequalities in Health Alliance.
Inequalities in Health Alliance
The RCP convenes the Inequalities in Health Alliance, a coalition of over 200 organisations who have come together to campaign for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities. We launched in October 2020, when we wrote to the prime minister to ask 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.
Membership is open to registered charities, NHS and social care organisations, public bodies, community groups and campaigning organisations that have an interest in reducing health inequality. Members of the IHA contribute to its ongoing campaign by promoting the ask for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities to government, their memberships and networks.