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Health Inequalities


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Health Inequalities

  1. 1. Health Inequalities S163908
  2. 2. What is Health Inequality?  According to the Institute of Public Health (2016) health inequalities can be described as preventable and unjust differences in health status that are experienced by certain population groups.  The World Health Organisation (2016) understands that health inequities are avertible inequalities in health between teams of individuals inside countries and between countries. These inequities arise from inequalities among and between societies. Social and economic conditions and also their effects on people’s lives confirm their risk of ill health and the actions that are taken to stop them becoming unwell or treat illness once it occurs.
  3. 3. What Causes Health Inequality?  Buck and Maguire (2015) state that the health of individuals is determined by a complex mix of factors which include income, housing and employment, culture and lifestyle and access to health care and other services.  Statistics from Barnado's (2016) indicate that over 25% of children living in the UK are living in poverty which is equal to 3.7 million children. 1.7 million of these children are living in what is known as severe poverty which affects just under 1/2 of the total children living in poverty or around 12% of all children living in the UK.  The World Health Organisation (2016) states that there is ample evidence in that social factors which include education, employment status, income level, gender and ethnicity have a marked influence on how healthy an individual is, In all countries there are wide imbalances in the health status of different social groups. There is a correlation, the lower an individual’s socio-economic position, the higher their risk of poor health.  Development theory has largely been concerned with inequalities in standards of living such as inequalities in income/wealth, education, health and nutrition (Conceicao and Bandura, 2009).
  4. 4. What are the Effects?  Inequalities have many effects on health. According to Kawachi and Woodward (2000), It is well known amongst professionals that social, cultural and economic factors cause substantial inequalities in health and they argue that individuals should be striving to achieve a more even share of good health, beyond improving the average health status of the population. They state that there are four arguments for the reduction of health inequalities.  1. Inequalities are unfair. Inequalities in health are undesirable to the extent that they are unfair, or unjust. Their view is that inequalities become "unfair" when poor health is itself the consequence of an unjust distribution of the underlying social determinants of health (for example, unequal opportunities in education for children).  2. Inequalities affect everyone. Conditions that lead to marked health disparities are detrimental to all members of society. Some types of health inequalities have obvious spillover effects on the rest of society, for example, the spread of infectious diseases, the consequences of alcohol and drug misuse, or the occurrence of violence and crime.  3. Inequalities are avoidable. Disparities in health are avoidable to the extent that they stem from identifiable policy options exercised by governments, such as tax policy, regulation of business and labour, welfare benefits and health care funding. It follows that health inequalities are, in principle, amenable to policy interventions.  4 Interventions to reduce health inequalities are cost effective. Public health programmes that reduce health inequalities can also be cost effective. The case can be made to give priority to such programmes (for example, improving access to health care in families with children) on efficiency grounds. On the other hand, few programmes designed to reduce health inequalities have been formally evaluated using cost effectiveness analysis. (Kawachi and Woodward, 2000).  The chart on the right represents the contribution of different factors to children’s health: (Healthy People 2010, US Department of Health and Human Services, 2000) 
  5. 5. Poverty and Health Inequalities  Gwatkin (2000) states that poverty and inequality are both predominantly factual concepts, equity is a question of values and is closely associated with the concept that is social justice. When applied to health equity, it traditionally is linked to the reduction of inequalities, inequity referring to differences in health considered unfair and unjust.  According to the Child Poverty Action Group (2016) some health issues that are associated with the effects of poverty are as follows:  'Poverty is also associated with a higher risk of both illness and premature death'.  'Children born in the poorest areas of the UK weigh, on average, 200 grams less at birth than those born in the richest areas'.  'Children from low income families are more likely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richer families'.  'They are more likely to suffer chronic illness during childhood or to have a disability'.  Barnado's (2016) state that 3 year old children who live in households with incomes below about £10,000 are 2.5 times more likely to suffer with a chronic illness than children in households with incomes above £52,000 and that infant mortality is 10% higher for infants in the lower social group than the average.  Chadwick revolutionalised public health provision in the 19th century when he recognised the need for sanitary conditions in a country ravaged by poor hygiene.  
  6. 6. Black Report (1980)  The Black Report (1980) was commissioned by David Ennals in 1977 when he chaired an expert committee investigating why the NHS had apparently failed to reduce social inequalities in health (BMJ, 2002).  According to Gray (1982) the UK Department of Health and Social Security published the Report of the Working Group on Inequalities in Health also known as the Black Report (named after chairman Sir Douglas Black, President of the Royal College of Physicians).  The Report showed in great detail the extent of which ill health and death are unequally distributed among the British population, and suggested that these inequalities have been widening rather than diminishing since the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948' (Gray, 1982).  The Black Report (1980) stated many recommendations for health equality including some which aimed to stamp out poverty. Recommendations 24-27 were presented as first steps towards the abolition of child poverty which were set as goals for the 1980s.  UK government and political parties at the time of the report resulted in the report receiving very little attention.  
  7. 7. Acheson Report (1998)  Almost two decades passed since The Black Report was written before a newly-elected Labour government in 1997 placed a reduction in health and social inequalities high on the political agenda and another working group led by Sir Donald Acheson was commissioned to examine the evidence, identify the issues and make recommendations to the UK government (NHS, 2016).  The report by Acheson (1998) states that it was commissioned by the Minister for Public Health to review the latest available information on health inequalities and 'summarise the evidence of inequalities of health and the expectation of life in England and identify trends' basing the review on data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the Department of Health (DH) and elsewhere.  The report was additionally commissioned to identify, in the light of the review, 'priority areas for future policy development that are likely to offer opportunities for Government to develop beneficial, cost effective and affordable interventions to reduce health inequalities' (Acheson, 1998).  According to Blane et al. (2003) 'The Inquiry's report and its recommendations were instrumental in fostering widespread recognition that health inequalities need to be addressed, and that tackling their wider determinants is crucial to this process'. 
  8. 8. Wanless Report (2008)  'In March 2001 the Chancellor commissioned Derek Wanless to examine future health trends and to identify the key factors which will determine the financial and other resources required to ensure that the NHS can provide a publicly funded, comprehensive, high quality service available on the basis of clinical need and not ability to pay' (Department Of Health, 2008).  Because of his assessment of the National Health Service, according to The NHS Confederation (2008) the 2002 budget included major increases in NHS spending until the year 2008 from £57.1 billion to £90.7 billion in England alone. He was able to do this through examining the demand and cost pressures in the NHS over the next two decades and recommended the amount of spending needed for it to thrive.  His review, Securing Good Health for the Whole Population 'focused particularly on prevention and the wider determinants of health in England and on the cost- effectiveness of action that can be taken to improve the health of the whole population and to reduce health inequalities' (Wanless, 2004). 
  9. 9. Marmot Report (2010) • According to Marmot (2010) in November of 2008 he was asked by the Secretary of State for Health to chair an independent review to propose the most effective evidence-based strategies for reducing health inequalities in England from 2010. The strategy includes policies and interventions which address the social determinants of health inequalities. • • 'The Marmot Review into health inequalities in England was published on 11 February 2010. It proposes an evidence based strategy to address the social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and which can lead to health inequalities. It draws further attention to the evidence that most people in England aren't living as long as the best off in society and spend longer in ill-health. Premature illness and death affects everyone below the top' (Local Government Association, 2010).
  10. 10. Social Inequality and Child Health  Despite the scientific and technological advances of recent times and their impact on the delivery of quality healthcare, major disparities in child health exist both between and within countries. Across the globe, over 25,000 children under the age of 5 die every day, the majority, but by no means all, in developing countries. Infant mortality is 10 times higher in the world's least-developed countries than in the industrialized world, and under-five mortality is 25 times higher (United Nations Children's Fund 2008). Vast discrepancies in child health also exist within high and low income countries (Denburg and Daneman, 2010).  The American Psychological Association (2016) suggests that socioeconomic status (SES) is a key factor which influences the quality of life for children. 'Increasing evidence supports the link between lower SES and negative psychological health outcomes, while more positive psychological outcomes such as optimism, self-esteem and perceived control have been linked to higher levels of SES for youth'.  Amick (1995) suggests that parents are often blamed for the health problems of children, however it is evident that much of children's compromised potential has origins outside of family life and this failure has roots in social, economic and environmental circumstances which affect children's health and well-being directly. 
  11. 11. Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor  According to the London School of Economics and Political Science (2012) over the past twenty years the rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer and generally less able to improve their lot in life, however there are now encouraging signs that policies to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor are slowly beginning to take effect and people are now more able to work their way out of poverty.  'The study, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also concludes that the introduction of Working Families Tax Credit in 1999 seems to have increased employment and job retention, increasing the incomes of many low-income families. There is also no evidence that employers have used WFTC to keep pay increases down. This may have been helped by the simultaneous introduction of the National Minimum Wage'. (LSE, 2012) 
  12. 12. References  Acheson. (1998). Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health Report. ISBN 0 11 322173 8.  American Psychological Association. (2016). Children, Youth, Families and Socioeconomic Status. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Amick, B, C. (1995). Society and Health. Oxford, England.: Oxford University Press. p19.  Barnado's. (2016). Child poverty statistics and facts. Available: Last accessed 6th March 2016.  Black. D, Morris. J, Smith. C & Townsend P. (1980). Black Report 10 Summary and recommendations. Available: . Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Black. D, Morris. J, Smith. C & Townsend P. (1980). Inequalities in health: report of a Research Working Group. London: Department of Health and Social Security.  Blane, D., Exworthy, M., Marmot, M. & Stuart, M. (2003). Tackling health inequalities since the Acheson Inquiry: A review of the progress made by government and others since the Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  BMA Board of Science. (2013). Growing up in the UK: Ensuring a healthy future for our children. ISBN: 978-0-9575831-0-8.  BMJ. (2002). Sir Douglas Black. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Buck, D. & Maguire, D. Inequalities in life expectancy: Changes over time and implications for policy. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Conceição, P. & R. Bandura. (2009). Measuring Subjective Wellbeing: A Summary Review of the Literature. USA: Office of Development Studies.  CPAG. (2016). The impact of poverty. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Denburg, A. & Daneman, D. (2010). The Link between Social Inequality and Child Health Outcomes. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.
  13. 13. References (Continued)  Department of Health. (2008). The Wanless report: Securing good health for the whole population. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Graham, H. (2009). Understanding Health Inequalities. Maidenhead, England: McGraw-Hill Education (UK). p3.  Gray, A. H. (1982). Inequalities in health. The Black Report: a summary and comment. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Gwatkin, D. R. (2000). Health inequalities and the health of the poor: What do we know? What can we do?. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Institute of Public Health. (2016). Health Inequalities. Available: Last accessed 6th March 2016.  Kawachi, I. & Woodward, A. (2000). Why reduce health inequalities?. J Epidemiol Community Health. Dec;54(12):923–929.  Local Government Association. (2010). Marmot Review report - 'Fair Society, Healthy Lives'. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  LSE. (2012). Narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Marmot, M. (2010). Fair Society, Healthy Lives: The Marmot Review. ISBN 978–0–9564870–0–1.  NHS. (2016). Poverty, Deprivation and Inequalities. Available:,-deprivation-and-inequalities.aspx. Last accessed 7th March 2016.  The NHS Confederation. (2008). The NHS Handbook. UK: Medical Care. p158.  UNDP. (2016). Inequality of what? Inequality between whom?. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  United Nations Children's Fund. (2008). The State of the World's Children. Available: Last accessed 7th March 2016.  Wanless, D. (2004). Securing Good Health for the Whole Population. Norwich: The Stationery Office.  World Health Organisation. (2016). What are health inequities or inequalities?. Available: Last accessed 6th March 2016. 