Scottish MPs (MSPs) have called for a multi-agency approach to tackle inequalities. This follows the publication of the Report on Health Inequalities after a two year inquiry, which identified the ongoing health gap between the rich and poor in Scotland.
The gap, they say, has endured; despite political will and investment in public health campaigns on smoking, nutrition and exercise. In fact the inquiry identified that such campaigns had the potential to increase inequalities. This is for two reasons:
- Such campaigns do not address the primary causes of inequalities such as poverty and deprivation and
- There is greater likelihood that the approaches would be taken up by the more literate and financially-able middle classes than those living in poverty.
It concluded that effective narrowing of the gap will require a multi-agency, multi-initiatives approach.
The MSPs pointed out that the primary causes of health inequalities; social and economic problems; lie outside of the health sector. The National Health Service (NHS) alone cannot these issues. They identified three approaches to tackle inequalities:
- Measures through the taxation and benefits system;
- Agencies collaborating to work effectively on related policies such as housing and education;
- NHS to provide better access to primary health services for the poorest and most vulnerable.
While the life expectancy gap in New Zealand is not as great as that in Scotland, there remain significant differences between different sectors of the population, with Māori and Pacific people faring poorly in health outcomes.
“It is particularly important to address this inequity; not only as a moral issue but as a societal one: inequities are linked to poor health outcomes, reduced opportunity, poor economic growth, lack of social cohesion and increased health care costs.,” says HPF Senior Health Promotion Strategist Karen Hicks. “HPF will watch the development of this initiative in Scotland with interest.”