Report finds inequality in health is the biggest killer

A report conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has concluded that health inequality and factors linked to it are responsible for the preventable deaths of millions of people. The three year project was compiled by hundreds of researchers from universities, institutions, ministries and non-government organisations from around the world.

The problem is not far from the door step of Great Britain.  The report finds that a  child born in a Glasgow, Scotland suburb can expect a life 28 years shorter than another living only 13 kilometres away.

Provision of healthcare is not the core issue, the report points to a “combination of bad policies, economics, and politics” as a key factor to inequality in health.  Some examples of reports findings globally below

  • A girl in Lesotho is likely to live 42 years less than another in Japan
  • In Sweden, the risk of a woman dying during pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 17 400; in Afghanistan, the odds are 1 in 8.
  • In the United States, 886 202 deaths would have been averted between 1991 and 2000 if mortality rates between white and African Americans were equalised.

Differences in wealth can not be used as a scapegoat either, the WHO cite examples of Cuba, Costa Rica, China, state of Kerala in India and Sri Lanka. These countries have achieved levels of good health despite relatively low national incomes.

The report uses the example of Nordic countries as a benchmark on how wealth can be used wisely by a country to create better health equality for its citizens. The Commission say Nordic countries use policies which encourage equality of benefits and services, full employment, gender equity and low levels of social exclusion. They are an example of what needs to be done everywhere

The Commission suggests looking further than the health sector to resolve the issues. recommendations include improving the political system which delivers the current status quo. Addressing child poverty globally, and encouraging better living practice, such as healthier eating.
Sir Michael Marmot, the commission's chairman wants governments to assess how their policies impact health. In the organisations press statement he is quoted as saying

“We rely too much on medical interventions as a way of increasing life expectancy” explained Sir Michael. “A more effective way of increasing life expectancy and improving health would be for every government policy and programme to be assessed for its impact on health and health equity; to make health and health equity a marker for government performance.”

The Commission believes that change is not only possible but realistic. They point to examples of countries that have made progress, one example is Egypt which has shown a remarkable drop in child mortality from 235 to 33 per 1000 in 30 years. Greece and Portugal reduced their child mortality from 50 per 1000 births to levels nearly as low as Japan.

More information about the report can be found at:-

The Report and background material

Executive summary [pdf 5.34Mb]


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Asif Yusuf



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