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Health equality institute launched

Doctors can play a role in reducing rich/poor divide

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 21 November 2011

The new University College London Institute aimed at reducing health inequalities has been launched today.

The UCL Institute for Health Equity, led by Sir Michael Marmot, will receive £1 million funding from the Department of Health over the next three years with the remit of reducing health inequalities in England.

The Institute, launched today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, will be independent, supported by UCL, the British Medical Association and independently commissioned projects. It will collect the latest evidence, provide expert advice and share best practice both locally and internationally. Part of its job will be to build on previous research and reviews led by Professor Marmot such as The Whitehall Study and the Fair Society, Healthy Lives review, which underpinned the recent Public Health White Paper.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “A stark picture has emerged in this country over the past 20 years of a growing divide in the health outcomes between rich and poor. For example, men living in Blackpool can expect to live on average 11.5 years less than men living in Kensington and Chelsea.

“The Public Health White Paper already incorporates a social determinants approach as we are creating a new public health system that will improve people’s health and wellbeing and reduce the health inequalities that exist across the country.

“The new Institute of Health Equity will provide invaluable advice and support for local organisations and health professionals during the transition to this fairer system.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA Chairman of Council confirmed that the Association is working with doctors to ‘equip them with the very best evidence, provided by the Institute, on what they can do to reduce health inequalities.’

“The BMA’s recent report Social Determinants of Health: What Can Doctors Do? emphasises while not every doctor has the opportunity to change the life course of individual patients, they can make a difference in other ways. The report highlights examples of good practice where health professionals can refer patients to colleagues from welfare, employment, housing and debt advice services so that the underlying causes of their problems can be addressed,” added Dr Meldrum.

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