Yesterday an event of international significance for all concerned about health took place in England. (I don’t think that’s overstating it).
Michael Marmot – who is probably best known for chairing the WHO’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health – released a landmark review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, setting out both the rationale and the evidence base for responding to health inequalities. It is intended to guide English policy making, but its relevance is much broader.
Health economist, Professor Gavin Mooney, hopes Nicola Roxon is taking note. He writes:
“A report has just been published in England which describes a terrible condition that kills and maims thousands. It results in a loss each year of between 1.3 and 2.5 million extra life years. Horrendous! The condition is growing every year in Australia We must surely take action!
The ’condition’? Health inequalities.
The review in England, headed by the social epidemiologist Professor Sir Michael Marmot, suggests that health inequalities should sit alongside tackling climate change as one of society’s core priorities. These inequalities create enormous production losses, lost taxes and higher welfare payments as well as massive additional health care costs averaging about $2000 for every person in England.
In an interesting comment from the English Health Secretary Andy Burnham he suggested: ‘Everyone should have an equal chance at good health. I am passionate about getting to the heart of this issue and ensuring that young people can look forward to the same life expectancy regardless of where they are born.’
Even more significant perhaps is the conclusion from the report that: ‘Economic growth is not the most important measure of our country’s success’ but instead it argues that ‘the fair distribution of health, well-being and sustainability are important’.
Please Ms Roxon could you show the same passion as Andy Burnham? Could you commission such a report on Australia? And Ken Henry, in your review of tax which can of course be a positive or negative influence on income distribution, did you take these health effects of income inequalities into account when making your recommendations? Did you realise these might be more important than economic growth? We must hope so.”
Stay tuned. We hope to have more coverage of this report.