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Health Foundation: Time to redraw UK map of inequality

As the Health Foundation launch a new UK-wide inquiry, the health charity has called on health governing bodies to reassess action being taken to address health inequalities between the richest and poorest communities across the UK or risk them widening further.

In a stark warning, the Health Foundation explained how some of Britain’s poorest communities are facing a double challenge of health and financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the responses taken to it – potentially damaging underlying health in these regions.

Gathering together a range of experts, the new inquiry is designed to shine a light on the different ways the pandemic, and the national response to it, are affecting the health of the nation.

Its findings will then help guide the action needed as the country recovers, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to lead long and healthy lives.

New research by the health charity has highlighted how poorer areas are more likely to have experienced some of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates, and are also showing increasing signs of intense financial hardship:

  • Of the 10 local areas in Great Britain with the highest death rates from Covid-19, half of them are from the poorest 30% of local authorities.
  • The share of the working age population receiving Universal Credit increased by 8% in the poorest areas between March and August, compared with a 5% increase in the wealthiest.

This has meant in communities such as Barnsley, Wolverhampton and Newham, where people already faced shorter lives due to poorer health outcomes, are now experiencing a disproportionate Covid-19 burden, as well as intensive financial hardship.

Informed by an expert advisory panel led by Claire Moriarty, a former civil service Permanent Secretary, the new inquiry will report in the summer of 2021 and explore different dimensions of inequalities and how these are likely to affect people’s health now and in the future.

The inquiry will also include a wealth of other experts including, among others, Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, Sarah Davidson, CEO of the Carnegie UK Trust, and Lord Victor Adebowale, non-Executive Director of Nuffield Health and previous CEO of Turning Point.

Clare Moriarty, Chair of the Covid-19 impact inquiry, commented: “It is not just the virus that has affected people’s health but also measures introduced in response. People have lost jobs and income, seen medical treatment cancelled and been asked to stay indoors for weeks on end.

“Children and young people have missed out on their education and opportunities to build social lives. Across the country, people's health and mental wellbeing has been affected and, as this research shows, the pandemic is intensifying and amplifying existing health inequalities.

“The Covid-19 impact inquiry aims to join up all these different issues to build a bigger picture of the impact the pandemic has had on our communities across the UK.

“We believe the findings will provide Government with a solid evidence base to inform their recovery policies and tackle these very big issues of inequality to ensure that everyone’s health and wellbeing is protected in the long term.”

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