Health inequality

THE disgraceful state of health inequalities in Britain has been getting steadily worse year on year as consecutive governments failed to tackle the problem.

Those living in poor areas – and particularly large swathes of Yorkshire – are 20 per cent more likely to die before they are 75. A huge body of evidence has been gathered on smoking rates, infant mortality rates, obesity rates and time and again those in less affluent areas face significantly worse health problems.

Reports have suggested the mortality rate between the North and the South is at its widest for 40 years, while statistics focusing on Sheffield revealed higher than average levels of mental health problems, smoking and asthma. This simply cannot be allowed to continue after more than a decade of record investment in the NHS.

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The coalition has launched a bid to try and cure this shameful problem by forming a new institute to tackle health inequalities.

The institute will be moderately funded, however if the New Labour years taught us anything, it is that throwing money at problems does not always solve them.

While the institute is a positive and welcome step, many studies and reports have been undertaken before. They follow of similar format of revealing statistics that are frequently shocking, before outlining an action plan to deal with the issues.

Sadly, the most recent statistics show that, even if the recommendations were acted upon, they have yielded little success.

The new institute must be more than an inquiry, it must be the catalyst for change. David Cameron made the NHS the heart of his election campaign but a series of clumsy policy announcements followed by U-turns have led people to question if the rhetoric will be matched by action.

Closing the chasm of North-South health inequality could be the hallmark of his first term.