‘Health inequalities are not inevitable, they are a consequence of political choices’, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: UK
Published: Monday 27 June 2022

Representatives at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Brighton have today backed a motion1 calling for the Government to urgently make a fundamental change in direction to improve healthy life expectancy.

Commenting after the motion passed, Professor Neena Modi, BMA President, said:

“Health inequalities are not inevitable; they are a consequence - not of individual actions - but of political choices. They can also be mitigated by political decisions across a range of policies – from fairer parental leave policies and fairer taxation, secure employment, safe housing and opportunity to access to quality education. Nearly every policy which passes before the eyes of local and national government will have an impact on health, but for most policymakers, health is but a passing thought. We have demonstrated this clearly in our President’s Project which has called for the Government to place health first, and consider the impact of every policy on health.

“In my year as BMA President, we have focused on promoting the need for human health and wellbeing to be recognised as an essential requirement for a sustainable future, and therefore a necessary primary policy focus for governments. It is already BMA policy that political decision-makers should consider the impact of every policy on health. The President’s project builds on this by offering concrete actions governments can take to achieve this, including moving beyond GDP as the predominant measure of the UK’s success and incorporating measures of population health in policy decisions.

“When we responded to the Government’s Levelling Up Agenda announcement in February 2022 we were concerned that it appeared to deliver less than we hoped, particularly in the crucial area of health. Added to this is the current storm of rising costs which will disproportionately impact the health of the poorest in society, adding to already unacceptably wide inequalities in the UK.

“The truth is that health indices in some parts of the UK are getting worse, for example the North East of England. The life expectancy recorded for men in Blackpool in 2019 was 0.4 years lower than it was in 2002, the biggest drop in the country for men. This stagnation, and also tragically, reduction in life expectancy, have no place in 2022.

“It’s clear that the social, economic and political environment in which our children grow up in will determine the future health of the nation. Government priorities must be reshaped to prioritise health, backed by ambitious investment, clear understanding of the science of health determinants, and a commitment to deliver equity across the nation.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. The full wording of the motion is as below:

Motion 21
Motion by NORTH EAST REGIONAL COUNCIL: That this meeting acknowledges the Levelling Up agenda but is seriously concerned there has been no reduction over the last five years in the number of years people in the UK live in poor health and believes:-
i) it is vital the UK governments make a fundamental change in direction to achieve the pledge of increasing healthy life expectancy;
ii) the UK governments must now urgently create social and economic conditions to enable healthier lives through assured jobs, satisfactory, acceptable housing, first class education and adequate incomes;
iii) health considerations must now be factored into all UK governments’ department policies.