Johnson to tackle health inequalities

Inequalities have shifted back to the top of the health agenda with the announcement last month by health secretary Alan Johnson of a strategic review, due to be published in spring 2008.

Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson

Dr Fiona Adshead, England’s deputy CMO, told a National Association of  Primary Care conference on primary care redesign in London last week that the health gap between rich and poor remains wide and in some areas is getting wider.

In the DoH’s spearhead deprivation areas, 13,700 patients die prematurely because they do not get the systematic high quality service they deserve, she said.

On a string of measures, patients in deprived areas have worse health outcomes. Eight per cent of babies in the UK are born underweight compared with the Europe average of 6.4 per cent. Mothers in deprived areas are four times more likely to smoke while pregnant and children from deprived areas are twice as likely to drink ‘unhealthy’ sugary, fizzy drinks, she said.

Examining factors that make a difference, the DoH has developed a Health Inequalities Intervention Tool to help PCTs and local government to see what they are doing well.

The DoH is looking at social marketing tools as well as health literacy programmes jointly with the Department for Education and Skills, she said.

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