Whilst recuperating from an operation I am perhaps not surprisingly attracted to health issues.
The "Fair Society, Healthy Lives" report, published today by Sir Michael Marmot, of University College London, says that, despite life expectancy for the worst-off improving by 2.9 years in the last decade, "up to 2.5 million years of life are being lost each year in England as a result of poor people dying prematurely".
The position in Scotland is if anything even starker. Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) in Scotland is 55.9 years for men born in the most deprived areas. Men born in the least deprived areas have a HLE of 73.3 years. That’s more than 17 years longer.
Of course the link between ill health and social class is not new. The last UK Labour Government in the 1970’s commissioned the Black Report on this issue. This report was completed when Thatcher came to office and she sought to bury the report by only publishing a few photocopies. One of our partner unions NALGO stepped in and published it properly. Not that it changed many Tory views. I well recall as late as the mid 1990’s the Tory Chair of Glasgow Health Board denying publically any link between ill health and social class.
Other more recent work points us to solutions. I covered the Fabian booklet The Solidarity Society in an earlier post. My personal favourite is The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. This detailed international research shows why more equal societies do better at almost every measure including health.
This shows that tackling inequality is not just a good thing for the ‘deserving poor’. It helps everyone and builds a stronger healthier nation.