Fair opportunities for healthy lives


Everyone in society should have the opportunity to make healthy choices and live healthy lives. But inequalities in power, money and resources at local, national and even global levels can make the circumstances of people’s daily lives more challenging. In turn, such circumstances can make people more vulnerable to poor health.

Although people are now living longer than they used to, the fact remains that socially disadvantaged people are more likely to face conditions – such as insecure work, or living in a run-down neighbourhood – that lead to poorer health and an earlier death.

These differences in people’s health and wellbeing are called health inequalities, and they don’t just exist between the very rich and the very poor in society: they span the population and affect people of all ages, at every stage of life, and across all major diseases.

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

It is possible to provide opportunities for people to live healthy lives. Decision makers at all levels can create policies – from international trade deals to lowering local levels of congestion – that will enable people to have greater influence over their own health and health behaviours, as well as those of their families.

The action required is universal: focusing solely on the most disadvantaged would only tackle part of the problem. If action is proportionate to the level of disadvantage, there is an opportunity to both improve the health of the population and reduce health inequalities.

The Marmot review, Fair society, healthy lives, concluded that reducing health inequalities in the UK requires a series of objectives to be met. These are:

  • giving every child the best possible start in life
  • creating job opportunities and fair working conditions for all
  • ensuring a healthy standard of living for the whole population
  • developing health-creating physical environments
  • empowering communities
  • strengthening health prevention.

** Alongside these policy objectives are a set of indicators developed to help people monitor change at local and national level. Find out more: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/wider-determinants

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