Cambridge University

Health Inequalities

Promoting equity through research

Health and care inequalities have plagued society for centuries. In 1601 a universal system of poor relief was established to address the inevitable fluctuations in agricultural which brought hunger, famine, disease and death. In more recent times in the UK it was the publication of the Black Report in 1980 which highlighted the persisting health inequalities that existed despite the introduction of universal health care.

Despite increased attention over the past four decades very little progress has been made; the gap between rich and poor remains as wide as ever. The COVID-19 pandemic will not only bring new inequalities but compound existing inequalities.

Inequalities do not just exist across income gradients and social class, but also across and between ethnicities, ages, gender, sexuality and disability. Inclusion health groups, such as people who sleep rough, street-based sex workers and gypsy, Roma, traveller communities, experience some of the worst health outcomes in society.

Part of the reason that so little progress on health and care inequalities has been made is that policy makers, practitioners and politicians tend to focus on what individuals do, rather than the interaction of the social, historical, geographical and biological factors.

Despite a universal health care system in the UK, free at the point of use, inequalities persist in the access, diagnosis and treatment of patients. Inequalities in hospital admissions alone have an estimated cost of £4.8 billion/year.

The Health Inequalities Pillar of Cambridge Public Health is an interdisciplinary group of researchers and practitioners who are interested in improving equity across society and in health care. The Pillar is led by Professor Mike Kelly and Dr John Ford.

Find out more about this pillar's research and people, and how to get involved, on the Health Equity Network page.

More can be found on the St John’s Reading Group page and the Methods Hub Inequalities page.

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