Review calls for renewed action to create a fairer society

Feb 10, 2010

Politicians from all parties must renew their commitment to tackling health inequalities if we are to create a fairer society, say researchers in the British Medical Journal today.

Their views come as an independent review by Professor Sir Michael Marmot is published, outlining the most effective strategies for reducing health inequalities in England from 2010.

The review is critical of the poor record of policy success in tackling health inequalities and advocates two aims: to improve health and wellbeing for all and to reduce health inequalities. To achieve these it wants social justice, health, and sustainability to be at the heart of all policies.

But David Hunter, Professor of and Management at Durham University and colleagues question whether "there is sufficient genuine and sustainable political will to tackle health inequalities."

There are few votes in health inequalities, they warn, and "although the report is at pains to point out, as others have, that we are all adversely affected and our lives diminished by the growing health gap, this message could easily get lost."

They outline three reasons for the lack of progress. The first is a focus on individual lifestyle interventions rather than action at a governmental level. "The response to the Marmot report must avoid this at all costs," they say.

The second - a deep seated inability to join up policy and delivery across government is, they argue "evidence of how fossilised our institutional structures have become and how incapable they are of providing effective solutions to the complex problems we face."

The third reason for policy failure, they say, lies in the realm of politics. "With the economic outlook bleak and an election looming, the temptation will be for politicians to say that we can't afford to deal with health inequalities just yet. The imperative is to show that we can't afford not to."

The policy changes needed for Marmot's recommendations to succeed can occur only if these three obstacles to progress are confronted, they conclude. Underpinning these must be a real political commitment at all levels, because a fairer society will benefit all.

A good start in life is the key to reducing health and social inequalities in society, according to an analysis article also published on today. Clyde Hertzman and colleagues argue that governments in both rich and poor countries should be investing more in programmes to support early child development.

Explore further: Is UK shale gas extraction posing a risk to public health?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wealth is good for your health, finds study

May 07, 2009

( -- Wealth and social class has a greater impact on the health and well-being of the elderly than previously realised, according to new research.

Recommended for you

Obama: 8 million signed up for health care (Update)

3 hours ago

President Barack Obama said Thursday 8 million Americans have signed up for health care through new insurance exchanges, besting expectations and offering new hope to Democrats who are defending the law ahead ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2010
"a deep seated inability to join up policy and delivery across government"

I do not expect to see existing politicians and lobbyists racing to solve this problem.

"the temptation will be for politicians to say that we can't afford to deal with health inequalities just yet. ....[].....A good start in life is the key to reducing health and social inequalities in society"

Things that make eminent sense can be the hardest to actually get done....making this change will require *a lot* of grassroots activism pushing the politicians ahead of them.

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Our brains are hardwired for language

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...