BMA lobbying

Health at a price: reducing the impact of poverty

Within the healthcare setting, action can be taken in a range of ways to help reduce the impact on health, and doctors can play a key role in supporting action in this area.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Tuesday 14 December 2021
Topics: Population health
Public Health Article Illustration

What you will get from this briefing

  • Actions that can be taken to prevent and mitigate the impact of poverty on physical and mental health.
  • Recommendations for policy makers as well as ways for doctors to advocate for patients facing the harmful effects of poverty.
  • Case studies from doctors who treat patients  impacted by poverty.


Key findings

  • Poverty has been estimated to cost the healthcare system in the UK £29 billion a year.
  • In Wales, men living in the least deprived areas can expect to live nine years longer, and women seven years longer, than those in the most deprived. Similar trends exist across the UK.
  • Children living in cold homes are more than twice as likely to suffer from a range of respiratory problems as those living in warm homes.
  • Two-fifths of adults in England aged 45 to 64 with below-average incomes have a limiting
    long-term illness, more than twice the rate of adults of the same age with above-average incomes.
  • Data indicates that older people who have experienced disadvantage throughout their adult lives are at greater risk of reporting ill health and long-term illness.


  • Measures and definitions of poverty
  • Causes of poverty
  • Poverty and health outcomes
  • Poverty and childhood
  • Poverty in adult life
  • Poverty in later life
  • Income and food poverty
  • Working conditions
  • Unemployment
  • Education
  • Fuel poverty and poor housing
  • Mental health
  • The cycle of poverty and health
  • Tackling the social detriments of health
  • The role of the NHS
  • The role of doctors as advocates
  • How doctors can support patients within the healthcare setting
  • Approaches to support the health of individuals living in poverty