Factors that influence health: An introduction
Factors that influence health: An introduction

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Factors that influence health: An introduction

7 Investigating health inequalities

Complete the activity below to develop your understanding of health inequalities and explore government action in different UK countries.

Activity 3 National approaches to health inequalities

1 hour 30 minutes

Using Google [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , or your favourite search engine, locate one of the following strategy documents which discuss health inequalities:

  • Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (2002) Investing for Health, Belfast, Northern Ireland Executive.
  • Department of Health (2003) Tackling Health Inequalities: A Programme for Action, London, The Stationery Office. (See also the main public health strategy Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier, published in 2004.)
  • Scottish Executive (2003) Improving Health in Scotland – the Challenge, Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.
  • Welsh Assembly Government (2001) Targeting Poor Health, Cardiff, Welsh Assembly Government. (See also the main health strategy Wellbeing in Wales, published in 2002.)

Focus your attention on finding out more about health inequalities. Spend around 30 minutes scanning the contents of the document and make notes on:

  • the the major types of health inequalities in your country
  • the actions that your government is taking to deal with these health inequalities.

Save your notes.


One example is the report Tackling Inequalities in Health, which is a comprehensive and well-founded approach to addressing inequalities across the English regions. The Department of Health has taken a systematic approach, producing status reports on progress towards targets they have set. The 2007 follow-up Tackling Inequalities in Health; 2007 Status Report can be found on the DH website. Watch out for the report from the Marmot Review, which was commissioned to propose an evidence-based strategy to reduce health inequalities in England from 2010, and for similar strategies in other parts of the UK. While some overall progress on reducing inequalities has been made, other targets have been missed and the current financial crisis and recession is likely to make things worse across the UK. In all four countries of the UK people in managerial and professional occupations live longer and experience less ill-health than those in routine and manual occupations or in the category ‘never worked and long-term unemployed’. Why is this? Genetic inheritance and lifestyle choices play a part but we know that lifestyles are influenced by social and economic circumstances, which are profoundly important in shaping people’s health. The next activity gives you the opportunity to consider one social determinant in more detail.


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