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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 4:15 pm, 4th March 2020

I beg to move,

That this House
notes the publication of Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On;
is concerned by its findings that since 2010 improvements to life expectancy have stalled for the first time in more than 100 years and declined for the poorest women in society, that the health gap between wealthy and deprived areas has grown, and that the amount of time people spend in poor health has increased across England;
agrees with the review that these avoidable health inequalities have been exacerbated by cuts to public spending and can be reduced with the right policies;
and calls on the Government to end austerity, invest in public health, implement the recommendations of the review, publish public health allocations for this April as a matter of urgency, and bring forward a world-leading health inequalities strategy to take action on the social determinants of health.

A former Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, whom we sadly lost towards the end of last year, said:

“Inequality in health is the worst inequality of all. There is no more serious inequality than knowing that you’ll die sooner because you’re badly off.”

He was absolutely right. Poverty and deprivation mean that people become ill quicker and die sooner. The current Health Secretary—I understand why he cannot be here for this debate; I do not criticise him for that, given what is going on, and we welcome the Under-Secretary of State, Jo Churchill, to the Chamber—said, when we last debated health inequalities, that

“extending healthy life expectancies is a central goal of the Government, and we will move heaven and earth to make it happen.”—[Official Report, 14 May 2019;
Vol. 660, c. 153.]

Well, last week the respected academic, Sir Michael Marmot, gave us his assessment of the Government’s attempts to move heaven and earth to narrow those inequalities and extend healthy life expectancy.