Following a government announcement, a new body set to tackle health disparities in the UK will launch on Friday 1st October.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) aims to tackle health inequalities across the country and will be co-led by newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy.
The OHID will play a vital role in the Department of Health and Social Care, driving the prevention agenda throughout the government to minimise health disparities, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and improve the public’s health.
Unfortunately, health disparities around the UK are austere. For example, a woman living in Blackpool will on average live 16 fewer years in good health than a woman born in Brent, London.
The government is also aware that ethnicity can impact health and health outcomes.
Health disparities can consequently undermine a person’s ability to work and live a long, healthy and independent life, whilst putting pressure on the NHS, social care and other public services.
Around £100b a year is spent due to ill health among working age people, and it is estimated that 40% of healthcare provision in the UK is being used to manage conditions which could have been prevented.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said “the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the disparities that exist within our country. We know the virus has had a greater impact on those with poorer health and we must ensure we give people the tools they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, whilst relieving pressures on our NHS.”
He continued, “by focussing on preventing and not just treating poor health, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will tackle health disparities to break the link between people’s background and their prospects for a healthy life.”
The Secretary added, “I look forward to Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy coming on board to co-lead the OHID, bringing her extensive knowledge to deliver a meaningful reduction in health disparities for people up and down the country.”
The new body will tackle the leading preventable risk factors for poor health, including obesity caused by unhealthy diets and lack of physical mobility, alongside smoking and alcohol consumption.
The body will work across the health system to take actions against health disparities, such as improving access to health services across the country.
It will also liaise with government divisions to address the wider drivers of good health, from employment to housing, education and the environment.
The Office will help advise a new cross-government agenda which will look to explore the broader aspects of health.
The OHID will offer specialist advice, data and evidence, alongside policy development and implementation to guarantee action on improving health.
It will bring together a variety of skills to run a new age of public health polices, leveraging innovative digital tools, data and actuarial science and delivery experts.