The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal World

November 5, 2019 - Comment

‘Splendid and necessary’ – Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm, New Statesman There are dramatic differences in health between countries and within countries. But this is not a simple matter of rich and poor. A poor man in Glasgow is rich compared to the average Indian, but the Glaswegian’s life expectancy is 8 years

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‘Splendid and necessary’ – Henry Marsh, author of Do No Harm, New Statesman

There are dramatic differences in health between countries and within countries. But this is not a simple matter of rich and poor. A poor man in Glasgow is rich compared to the average Indian, but the Glaswegian’s life expectancy is 8 years shorter. The Indian is dying of infectious disease linked to his poverty; the Glaswegian of violent death, suicide, heart disease linked to a rich country’s version of disadvantage. In all countries, people at relative social disadvantage suffer health disadvantage, dramatically so. Within countries, the higher the social status of individuals the better is their health.

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These health inequalities defy usual explanations. Conventional approaches to improving health have emphasised access to technical solutions – improved medical care, sanitation, and control of disease vectors; or behaviours – smoking, drinking – obesity, linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. These approaches only go so far. Creating the conditions for people to lead flourishing lives, and thus empowering individuals and communities, is key to reduction of health inequalities.

In addition to the scale of material success, your position in the social hierarchy also directly affects your health, the higher you are on the social scale, the longer you will live and the better your health will be. As people change rank, so their health risk changes.

What makes these health inequalities unjust is that evidence from round the world shows we know what to do to make them smaller. This new evidence is compelling. It has the potential to change radically the way we think about health, and indeed society.

Comments

Anonymous says:

poverty causes sickness Wealth buys better health and longer life. Poverty is corrosive, it grinds people down, mentally and physically. Poverty and extreme class inequality also corrode our social fabric, bonds between us are breaking down, class divides grow . The rich buy their health. The poor get chronically sick. The evidence is clear and unequivocal, the most unequal societies have the greatest number of people suffering from chronic conditions such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and addiction,…

Anonymous says:

the truth at last. anyone with influence in the matter of politics or social organisation should empty their bookshelves and buy one of these instead.same goes for anyone interested in preserving his own health.forget five a day and so forth.it’s all a smokescreen.

Anonymous says:

Compelling reading Well presented case based on the evidence available. We should be as concerned about health as we are about climate yet the facts don’t seem to get through the political fog. This is an excellent book and needs more exposure.

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