Address injustice of lower life expectancy for people born in poverty
Last updated: 09:57am 21 January 2019
Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.49
If you are at a state school you are less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you are a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you are black, you are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you are white. If you are born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you are a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there is not enough help at hand. These are burning injustices that damage the unity of our country, and we will address them.
In 2016, life expectancy at birth was estimated to be 79.5 years for males and 83.1 years for females. Yet those born in poorer parts of the UK were expected to live nine and seven fewer years, respectively, than those of the same sex in richer areas. A 2015 report on inequalities in life expectancy had already established the correlation, and in February 2018 researchers found evidence of a widening rich-poor mortality gap.
This policy is a promise to “address” this “burning injustice”. The challenge here is how to measure when it has been achieved. In our view, the wording implies more than simply ‘increasing life expectancy’ – a small increase would not prove the injustice of low life expectancy had been addressed. So it means something more significant than just ‘increase’, but precisely what that is we don’t yet know. As with other policies that are tricky to measure, we’ll seek opinion from independent organisations, and reach out to the government to get a clearer understanding of their intention.
In the meantime, let’s look at what has happened so far. In July 2017, the government published a review providing “public health planners and local communities with evidence informed principles for designing healthy places”.
In September 2017, Public Health England published a resource “to support local action to tackle health inequalities”, which assesses the current situation, proposes interventions and considers the tools needed to reduce health inequality.
In February 2018, government guidance was issued on preventative public health interventions which could reduce health inequalities.
These initiatives, along with a suite of further resources and guidance from Public Health England represent attempts to “address” the injustice of income-related life expectancy inequality, so we’re marking this policy as ‘in progress’. Whether these tactics will be enough to actually reduce the mortality gap, only time will tell. We’ll be monitoring for statistical data relating to this, so follow this policy for updates.
Address the facts
- Health Profile for England: 2017 – Chapter 1: life expectancy and healthy life expectancy – Gov.uk
- Inequalities in life expectancy: Changes over time and implications for policy – The King’s Fund
- An overview of lifestyles and wider characteristics linked to Healthy Life Expectancy in England: June 2017 – Office for National Statistics
- Life expectancy and poverty – Full Fact
- Widening rich-poor mortality gap, says Longevity Science Panel – Longevity Science Panel
- Spatial Planning for Health – Gov.uk
- Disparities in mortality among 25–44-year-olds in England: a longitudinal, population-based study – The Lancet
- What is poverty? – Joseph Rowntree Foundation
- Measuring poverty – Joseph Rowntree Foundation
- Reducing health inequalities: system, scale and sustainability – Gov.uk
- Local health and care planning: menu of preventative interventions – Gov.uk
- Health equity – Gov.uk
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