Review calls for renewed action to create a fairer society

February 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 bmj.com 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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
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.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.