Health equity is fundamental to a strong Britain. Yet the past decade has seen frightening increases in deprivation and child poverty across the country, with a catastrophic effect on health.
Health Equity North (HEN) was launched because not only does the north suffer from poorer health outcomes across a huge number of measures, but its world-leading researchers are producing exceptional work on the challenges in the region.
And those challenges are many. Our Health Equity North 2023 report shows people born in the region live one year less than the English average and three years less than the best-performing regions of London and the south-east.
The north has higher rates of bad or very bad health and the highest rates of disability in England. We have higher rates of economic inactivity due to ill health or disability, compared to the English average, and more people providing unpaid care. And across the region, there are four deaths per 1,000 live births compared to three deaths per 1,000 in London and the south-east – an extra 144 infant deaths in 2021.
The cost-of-living crisis, Covid-19, and decades of underinvestment in public health and in the infrastructure that determines good health – good jobs, good homes, good education, clean air, access to green spaces and to transport, and the ability to eat good food – have led the north to this position.
But it doesn’t need to be this way. Policy decisions have been made that have exacerbated the problem. Cuts to local government budgets have hit hard. Our Covid-19 and the Northern Powerhouse report showed that in Blackpool, welfare funding since 2008 has fallen by £720 per person per annum. People in Cambridge, one of the healthiest regions of the UK, lost £190.
Before the pandemic child health, a key predictor of life-long health and economic productivity, was poor and deteriorating. Since Covid-19, we’ve seen adverse trends in poverty, education, employment and mental health for children and young people.
Our analysis showed that reductions in the core spending power of local authorities in the north of £1 per head costs £3.17 per head in lost productivity. That’s equivalent to around a £2bn loss in GDP per year. Our Health for Wealth report found that bringing the health of the region up to that of the rest of the country would put an extra £13.2bn back into the economy.
The levelling up mission on improving health life expectancy was a welcome start, but the failure to put in place a health inequalities strategy, and cuts to the safety nets which stop families falling into deprivation, have meant it is currently simply a pipe dream.
To build our health in the region we need to take a place-based approach to tackle the social determinants of ill health. We need to build health resilience and we need to start young with the children in our region.
That’s why Health Equity North will have three main focus areas: the economic impact of ill health; building a fairer future for children in the region to allow them the same opportunities as those elsewhere in the country; and health resilience, to explore the impacts on the population and economy, and to find policy solutions to build that resilience across the north.
For more information visit: www.healthequitynorth.co.uk
This advertorial was first published in our Regional Development print issue, on 5 May 2023. Read it in full here.