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Health inequalities demand action on poverty

28 May, 2004

Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson, Upper Bann MLA John O'Dowd commenting on the publication of the Health Department report on health inequalities said that unless social inequalities are challenged there is little prospect of eradicating the huge health inequalities that exist.

Mr O'Dowd said:

"It is well established that social and economic inequalities are a huge factor in determining health and well-being.

"Unless we challenge the factors that create, reinforce and maintain social and economic inequality and, in particular, tackle poverty then there is little chance that we will be able to eradicate health inequalities.

"It is an indictment on our society that people living in a deprived area are a third more likely to die prematurely; 25% more likely to die as an infant; 15% more likely to get cancer; and 25% more likely to be admitted to hospital.

"This report sets out in black and white the urgent need to bring together policy that deals with unemployment, income levels, support for carers, education and training, housing, recreational facilities, the built environment, transport and road safety, fuel poverty in a greater focus on the public health agenda.

"There has been some progress in prioritising public health, notably with the Investing for Health Strategy and growing acceptance of the need to extend the workplace smoking ban but we need to grab the bull by the horns and develop a strategy to eliminate poverty. It is a sad reflection on both the current NIO Ministers and the previous Executive that there is no anti-poverty strategy in place.

"This report also brings into focus the impact of the conflict on peoples health. These findings should encourage greater urgency in the development of a strategy to eliminate poverty and to secure and build upon the changes in our society brought about by the peace process." ENDS

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