Careers at

Whatever your background, you should have a reasonable chance of living a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, that's not the case in the UK today. Recognising that prevention is better than cure is key to addressing this. That's why we launched Health Action Research Group - and why your help matters. Here's a quick indication of some of the issues our research has  identified:  1. Health in the UK is often a postcode lottery. Being born in a deprived area means you’re likely to suffer more years of poor health and die younger. For example, women in affluent Richmond upon Thames can expect to enjoy an average of 18 years more good health than women in Tower Hamlets. 2. The UK has greater health inequalities than most other developed countries – and these inequalities have widened in recent years, including the north-south divide. 3. This impacts families and communities, exacerbates pressure on the NHS and social care, and causes estimated productivity losses of £32 billion a year. 4. Health inequalities start young, with the first 1000 days of life a formative period for both physical and mental health. 5. People’s environments are one source of health inequality – with cold, damp, insecure housing, air pollution, under-performing schools, poor access to public transport and an obesogenic food environment just some of the factors at play. 6. Economic inequalities are particularly pronounced in the UK, where the gap between the pay of a CEO and an average employee is above average for a developed country. This has been accompanied by the rise of the ‘working poor’ in often insecure, low paid jobs, sometimes on zero hours contracts. 7. As Professor Sir Michael Marmot has identified this has psycho-social impacts. The experience of low status and inequality – being low status, feeling low status and being made to feel low status has a significant detrimental effect on people’s lives and health. 8. It is probably no coincidence therefore that people in deprived areas are more likely to turn to smoking, alcohol and ‘comfort food’ as a coping mechanism – and why women in deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be prescribed anti-depressants. 9. Recent governments have been reluctant to tackle the underlying causes of health inequalities. For example, a former Health Secretary commented a few years ago, that it was hard enough for the government to tackle the tobacco industry, they couldn’t be expected to tackle the food industry as well. 10. Governments have preferred to rely on health information (e.g. through public health messaging and food labels). In practice this has tended to be acted on by those most literate and health conscious – effectively increasing health inequalities. 11. There has also been stigmatising of individuals, as when a writer in The Spectator, argued that ‘lardbuckets’ shouldn’t be consuming so much ‘crap’ and would benefit from a bit of fat-shaming. Interestingly he only singled out for censure those who consume ‘crap’ – not those who manufacture, market and distribute it.   12. If health inequalities are to be tackled, there is therefore a need to recognise the significant cost to the UK of allowing such major health inequalities to continue, to tackle the underlying causes (economic, psycho-social and environmental), and through people’s lives, from the first 1000 days, through childhood, study and employment to retirement.

Behind the scenes