Community health June 13, 2019
Millions of life years lost due to socioeconomic inequality, says new report

By News Feature - Accountable Care Journal

New analysis from the Centre of Progressive Policy (CPP) shows 80 million life years are lost due to inequalities in education, income, employment, crime and housing in England.

The report from the think tank, entitled 'Beyond the NHS: Addressing the root causes of poor health,' seeks to evaluate the impacts of poor-quality housing, knife crime, skills shortages and homelessness, among other social determinants, arguing that the greatest socioeconomic challenges of our time are also our greatest health challenges. Despite the current rhetoric in healthcare centring on prevention, CPP argues that public policy 'continues to focus on cure rather than long-term prevention. ' 

Socioeconomic inequality not only affects how long we live but also how healthy that life is. The report estimates that 170 million years of healthy life are being lost due to these inequalities. More than half of the variation in life expectancy across local authorities is explained by employment, income, education, crime and housing. To shift away from the current failing narrow model of healthcare and towards a social model of health in the broadest sense, the report makes several recommendations including:

  • Strengthening the role of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) as it pertains to social determinants and making the role accountable across government.

  • Raising social and other forms of government spending relative to health spending.

  • Within the NHS prevention budget, ring-fencing money for addressing the social determinants of health and measuring progress over the long term (5+ years).

  • Accelerating the review and roll-out of NHS initiatives that embed good practice in terms of employment, training and procurement in deprived areas.

  • Strengthening the role of Directors of public health within the current and future health system framework (including the emerging Integrated Care Systems) and providing greater resource and more discretion for how local areas deploy their public health budgets to tackle social determinants.

Ben Franklin, head of research methods at CPP, said: "The tried and tested approach of continuing to set aside more money for the NHS while cutting back other services has failed.

"At this critical moment, it is important to think again about health policy – to shift away from the narrow definition of health simply relating to the work of the NHS and to deliver health in all policies and places."

The full report can be read here.

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