Health inequalities: why has there not been more progress?

The Scottish Parliament held a debate on health inequality last week, which I was unable to speak in but I wanted to share some thoughts on.

This is a significant issue in Scotland where people in the most deprived areas of the country are more likely to suffer from poor health and die earlier compared with people in affluent areas – the infographic below highlights this disparity in Edinburgh along the tram line route. However, government incentives so far have shown little tangible difference due to their emphasis on individual behavioural change.

Mind the Gap graphic

This debate has coincided with the Green MSPs publication of a new health inequality briefing which you can read here. The briefing, based on a Health Inequality research paper, outlines the importance of tackling the social determinants of health including income, access to health and social services, good quality jobs and the quality of our environment.

Given the wide range of factors influencing our health, we should be looking at how all major government decisions affect health inequality. And we should be supporting a community-led approach so that particular local health challenges can be tackled through projects designed and run by the community.

Greens are calling for:

  • Incomes to be raised through policies such as a £10 minimum wage
  • Legislation to bring in Health Inequality Impact Assessments (HIIA) for all significant government policies
  • The creation of a Healthy Challenge Fund to empower communities in the same way as the hugely successful Climate Challenge Fund