Man of South Asian descent talking with a doctor

Government commission on race rejects health disparities common view

The newly-released UK Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has “rejected the common view that ethnic minorities have universally worse health outcomes” when compared with the UK white population.

In many health outcome metrics, including life expectancy, overall mortality and many of the leading causes of mortality in the UK, ethnic minority groups recorded better outcomes than the White majority population.

Instead, they argue that evidence shows deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors as being defining factors for worsened health outcomes.

However, the Commission also evidenced that, given many ethnic minorities had higher levels of deprivation compared with the White majority population, deprivation didn’t represent destiny for worse health outcomes.

Instead, there were clear opportunities to learn from why some ethnic minority groups were doing better than others, with further investigations needed to understand whether it was due to differences in important risk factors, family structures, better social networks or health behaviours such as drinking alcohol and smoking.

The report also looked at some health conditions where there was a variation within the broader ethnic group, such as some cancers which had significant differences between Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups.

As part of the Commission’s research, it heard evidence which, in contrast to the narrative of other reports, suggested there was no overwhelming evidence of racism in the treatment and diagnosis of mental health conditions.

It called for significant additional research in this area to further understand the interplay between different causes and understand the impact of other challenges, such as the mistrust of health services, among some ethnic minority groups.

The Commission’s conclusions on race and health factor into a wider, extensive report into race and ethnic disparities across the UK.

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