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Health Inequality - Essay Example

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Health inequalities are moving up the policy agenda of post-industrial societies. Within and beyond Europe, public health policy is being reconfigured around the goal of reducing socio-economic differentials. It is a goal, which is driving new health strategies in the United Kingdom (UK), with the government committed 'to narrow the health gap in childhood and throughout life between socio-economic groups' (Secretary of State, 2000, pp…
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Health Inequality
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Download file to see previous pages Looking beyond Europe, New Zealand has launched a new health strategy to deliver reductions in health inequalities (King, 2000). These national initiatives are framed by the international equity agenda established by WHO in its Health For All charter and reaffirmed in its Health21 programme (WHO and WHO).
The English healthcare system espouses objectives of equity, usually expressed as equality of access for equal need. The right to access is established in common law and any health organisation denying it would face judicial challenge. The attainment of this objective needs to be assessed by the degree of equity achieved in the distribution of resources, the outputs of health services and outcomes in terms of health improvement.
In the UK, policy on health inequalities has been gathering pace since the late 1990s. Renewed interest in this subject began when the UK government commissioned an independent inquiry into inequalities in health in 20031. This interest continued after three key events.
A major new perspective on the income and health relationship is provided by the evidence that population mortality rates are strongly related to the degree of income inequality in a population. This has been demonstrated repeatedly with international data and has most recently been reported among the various states of the United Kingdom: more egalitarian countries and states have lower mortality rates.
It has been suggested that the reason more egalitarian societies have better health may be that they tend to be more socially cohesive. There are a number of examples of egalitarian, healthy, and cohesive societies, ranging from Roseto in Pennsylvania to Japan and to Britain during the two world wars. In each, unusually cohesive social relations may have been protective of health. However, given the qualitative and circumstantial nature of this evidence, the paper by Kawachi and colleagues (Kawachi et al. 2004) in this issue6 is particularly exciting. It provides the first quantitative evidence that aspects of social cohesion may indeed link smaller income differences to lower mortality rates. The results of Kawachi et al. seem to suggest that where income differences are smaller, people experience their social environment as less hostile and more hospitable. (Kawachi et al. 2004)
That income inequality is related particularly closely to deaths from homicide, accidents (unintentional injuries), and alcohol-related causes points toward pathways mediated by failing social cohesion. Work on social support and social affiliations have shown the importance of the social environment to health. (Campbell 2003) As other human beings have always had the potential to be our most feared adversaries and competitors as well as our greatest source of comfort and solace, it would be understandable if the nature of the social environment were crucial to our psychosocial welfare and the prevalence of chronic stress in populations. (Mohan 2000)

Distribution of resources
The allocation of financial resources continues to be based on refinement of the Resource Allocation Working Party (RAWP) formula first introduced in 1976 . This is calculated based on population ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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