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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Health inequality gap “widening
Health inequality gap “widening”
“The poorest areas have the lowest life expectancy. Health inequalities are widening despite government efforts to narrow the gap.” independent experts say.
The government pledged to reduce the inequality gap – measured by infant mortality and life expectancy – by 10 per cent between 1997 and 2010.
But latest figures show that on both counts the gap between the poorest and population as a whole has increased.
The report by a government advisory group said that progress had been made on child poverty and improving housing.
The Scientific Reference Group of Health Inequalities study also said that the gap had narrowed for cancer and heart disease death rates.
Without tackling wealth inequalities, which are widening, it is not going to be able to tackle health inequalities.
Group chairman Professor Sir Michael Marmot said that the reduction in child poverty already seen – from 1999 to 2004, it fell from 24 to 20 per cent – would lead to a reduction in health inequalities, but not by 2010.
The Department of Health commissioned report found the gap in life expectancy between the bottom fifth and the population as a whole had widened by 2 per cent for males and 5 per cent for females during 1997–1999 and 2001–2003. The shift means that the life expectancy in the wealthiest areas is seven to eight years longer than that in the poorest areas.
The gap in the infant mortality rate was 19 per cent higher in 2001–2003 between the poorest and general population, compared to 13 per cent higher in 1997–1999.