Ten years of cuts 'have damaged health and widened regional inequality'

A report from the Institute of Health Equity says life expectancy has failed to increase for the first time since 1900, with poor women and the north east of England badly affected

Cuts to the voluntary sector over the past 10 years have damaged health and widened regional inequalities across England, a new report has concluded.

The report Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, which was published today by the Institute of Health Equity comes a decade after the original Marmot Review and concludes that the divide between the north and south of England is worsening.

Life expectancy has also failed to increase for the first time since 1900, the latest report says, with areas of the north east of England the worst affected. Life expectancy has also declined for the poorest 10 per cent of women.

Among the report’s findings is a claim that austerity and cuts to voluntary services across the country are a contributing factor to increasing poor health and stalling life expectancy.

“Over the past 10 years, these deprived communities and areas have seen vital physical and community assets lost, resources and funding reduced, community and voluntary sector services diminished and public services cut, all of which may have damaged health and widened inequalities,” the report says.

The report’s recommendations include early intervention to prevent health inequalities and more monitoring of health inequalities by the government.

The report suggests the Prime Minister should develop a national strategy to address some of the issues raised by the latest study.

Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity and author of the report, said: “This damage to the nation’s health need not have happened. It is shocking. The UK has been seen as a world leader in identifying and addressing health inequalities, but something dramatic is happening.

“Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health, and it is likely to continue to do so. If you ask me if that is the reason for the worsening health picture, I’d say it is highly likely that it is responsible for life expectancy flatlining, people’s health deteriorating and the widening of health inequalities.”

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “While politicians hail the end of austerity, every day at Action for Children our front-line services tell us child poverty levels are the worst they can remember, with parents coming to us desperate for help to keep their families warm and well fed.

“It’s long past time for the government to deliver ambitious policies to tackle child poverty and restore the real value of children’s benefits to their levels before they were cut.”

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