Sajid Javid’s vow to “improve health” will fail unless the government reverses a decade of public health cuts, an expert warned on Monday.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced the creation of a new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and pledged that it would focus “relentlessly” on health inequalities and ” a driving mission to improve health “.
But the intergovernmental effort will fail if ministers do not prioritize disease prevention and urgently restore funding to key public health services, Sir Michael Marmot said in a speech at the annual congress of the Royal College of Nursing ( RCN).
“We need to adopt a health and social care system that prioritizes not only treating disease, but also how to prevent it in the first place,” said Marmot, director of the UCL Institute for Health Equity. .
“The pandemic has clearly shown over the past 18 months why public health and, more broadly, the social determinants of health, are so important,” he added. âThe health and social agenda must be rebalanced more towards prevention. “
OHID would lead an intergovernmental effort to address “the broader factors that contribute to people’s health outcomes,” Javid pledged last week. Health problems often depended on “your job, your home, your environment, the education you had and much more,” he admitted.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Social Justice at the Grange Community Center in Blackpool, Javid insisted that the OHID would focus “relentlessly” on health inequalities as part of the program ” government upgrade.
He will take over the public health work of Public Health England. Javid said he would have “a driving mission to improve health and ensure that everyone has a chance to live happy and healthy lives.”
But Marmot is expected to argue on Monday that worsening health inequalities across the UK have been at least in part caused by a decade of drastic cuts in public health spending by the government.
At the NCR convention, Marmot will tell delegates that the underlying problem is “not that the central government is telling local authorities not to act, it is that they have withdrawn the funding”.
Earlier this year, a review he conducted on health inequalities found death rates from Covid-19 to be a quarter higher in Greater Manchester than in the rest of England. The more impoverished a local community, the higher its death rate, according to its report.
Marmot said this “social gradient in mortality” was present across the country and reflected existing inequalities in health and employment. In his speech, he is expected to warn that ‘damaging’ and deteriorating health inequalities in the UK can only be tackled with a greater emphasis on prevention.
In a blow to Javid and Boris Johnson, Marmot will say that while he has seen impressive levels of engagement from politicians at the local level and in some of the decentralized countries, particularly Wales, the UK government has failed. has not yet followed suit.
âThe Prime Minister explained in July that we do not know why the life expectancy of the people of Glasgow and Blackpool is so much lower than that of Hertfordshire and Rutland. We do. This is due to fundamental societal problems such as poverty, substandard housing and children who do not have enough to eat, âhe should say.