Health inequalities are ‘unfair and avoidable differences in health across populations and between different groups within society’ (The King’s Fund 2020).
The unequal distribution of the social factors which affect our health – such as education, housing and employment – drives inequalities in physical and mental health, reduces people’s ability to prevent sickness, or to get treatment when ill health occurs.
These inequalities are complex and rooted in society, but they can also be prevented. The dimensions of health inequalities are overlapping, as shown in the illustration pictured above right.
As a result of the pandemic, we are all more aware of what is meant by health inequalities and the ways in which they impact on people’s lives.
Therefore, it is vital to act now and drive forward work programmes that reduce inequalities, prevent poor health and improve people’s opportunities for better health.
It is vital too that the structural inequalities in our society – unemployment, overcrowded housing, and a lack of green space, as a few examples – are tackled because it is changes at the root cause that will reduce health inequalities in the long term.
Health inequalities are the result of a complex range of interrelated causes – and the causes of those causes.
In some cases, actions will be primarily in the hands of one partner within the local health and care system.
In other cases, reducing inequality will require close collaboration between several organisations across the system.
Integrated Care System (ICS) partners are committed to taking action at all levels and these are set out in Northamptonshire’s Population Health Management Strategy.