|Poor in health|
A major report on inequalities in health was published towards the end of November - the outcome of a year-long investigation commissioned by the government and headed by former Chief Medical Officer Sir Donald Acheson. A total of 75 recommendations have been made to reduce the 'health gap' between the rich and the poor. The gap has grown during the last few decades.
In 1970 a male manual labourer was twice as likely to die as a professional of the same age; by 1990 the death risk was three times higher. Universal health campaigns, like breast cancer screening, have increased health inequalities as the take-up is much higher amongst the better off. Smoking is far more common in lower social classes. Sir Donald said the government should do more to tackle the problems of the less well-off: 'While they have done many things which are beneficial in this area what is required is a sustained effort over the next ten years'. His team's recommendations include more water fluoridation, nicotine patches on the NHS, increasing benefits and putting more money into schools and public transport. The report may be accessed in full on the Internet at: www.official-documents.co.uk.
It will no doubt produce a number of reactions which we shall report in future issues of Health Insight.
Meanwhile the National Heart Forum has said the government must act to reduce deaths from heart disease amongst the poor. Professor George Davey Smith of the University of Bristol said the failure to reduce coronary mortality in the lower social classes was due to rising levels of deprivation. The Forum has called for a 'national food plan' to encourage the consumption of fruit and vegetables. Its proposals include free fruit and vegetables for schoolchildren and an extra dietary allowance for low-income women who breastfeed.
Sources: BBC Online, BMJ 7 November
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