UCL News


Health inequality gap 'widening'

16 August 2005

Health inequalities are widening despite government efforts to narrow the gap, independent experts say.

The government pledged to reduce the inequality gap - measured by infant mortality and life expectancy - by 10% between 1997 and 2010.

But latest figures show that on both counts the gap between the poorest and population as a whole has increased.

The report by a government advisory group said progress had been made on child poverty and improving housing.

The Scientific Reference Group of Health Inequalities study also said the gap had narrowed for cancer and heart disease death rates.

Group chairman Professor Sir Michael Marmot [UCL Department of Epidemiology & Public Health] said the reduction in child poverty already seen - from 1999 to 2004 it fell from 24% to 20% - would lead to a reduction in health inequalities, but not by 2010.

"This report gives no grounds for complacency that enough has yet been done."

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme, he said the figures needed to be set against "dramatic improvements" in the overall health of all social groups over the last 100 years.

"We'd still like it to be as good in the worst off groups as it is in the best - and it's improved more rapidly in the best off than it has in the worst off - but it's improved dramatically right across the board," he added.

To tackle inequality the government needed to look at "the circumstances in which people live and work, and the ways we raise our children, the standards of education", he said.

BBC News Online