The Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) has issued a briefing to MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and health inequalities.
Labour MP Peter Dowd will lead a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 26 January on the newly created OHID and health inequalities. The IHA, convened by the Royal College of Physicians, has issued a briefing ahead of this debate reiterating its call for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities.
The debate in parliament is the first time that backbenchers will have had the chance to debate the OHID at length since it was formally created in October last year.
When OHID was launched, RCP president Andrew Goddard said: “While the OHID will do much to improve health inequalities, we also need a cross-government strategy, led by and accountable to the prime minister. The OHID has a unique opportunity to begin levelling up the health of the population, but we need more than coordination of government work…we need strong political leadership to ensure that the good work of one department isn’t being undone by the unintended consequences of policy in another.”
The IHA has been campaigning for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities since October 2020. Since its launch, it has grown from 80 to 200 member organisations.
A cross-government strategy is needed because health inequality is the result of many and varied factors. While it may seem that health inequality is a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care or the NHS, health and social care services can only try and cure the ailments created by the environments people live in.
If we are to prevent ill health in the first place, we need to take action on issues such as poor housing, food quality, communities and place, employment, racism and discrimination, transport and air pollution. All parts of government and public services need to adopt reducing health inequality as a priority.