Closing the Gap, Sheffield and the Coalition

21 Nov 2011 by Karl Hallam

At last! After 18 months of reading Coalition press releases that have left us feeling a little flat, today one that excites. The launch of a new 'Institute that aims to reduce health inequalities through action on the social determinants'. It's a small thing (£1m over 3 yrs), but still good to see it is on their radar.

Anyone from Sheffield will have their eye caught by the 'closing the gap' phrase at it was something that Nick Clegg's Sheffield Lib Dems were firmly against in the past. Labour's desire to close the gap was portrayed as a 'favoured areas' policy by the Lib Dems. They argued it was a way of diverting money form Clegg's wealthy Hallam area towards the Labour and deprived Blunkett/Betts areas. Even now it looks a bit crazy to think that the Lib Dems took this line, but tells us a lot about how they operate depending on the opposition in any particular area.

That aside, this is interesting and we'll be talking to our colleague Professor Danny Dorling about it soon.

Below is the full text of the release:

New institute to help narrow the health gap

A new UCL (University College London) Institute that aims to reduce health inequalities through action on the social determinants was launched today by the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Professor Sir Michael Marmot.



Speaking at the international Social Determinants of Health conference, the Health Secretary will set out the Government’s commitment to tackle health inequalities and to support the UCL Institute of Health Equity, which will be led by Sir Michael.

The Institute will receive £1 million funding from the Department of Health over the next three years to take forward action that will reduce health inequalities in England. The Institute will also be supported by UCL, the BMA and independently commissioned projects.

The UCL Institute for Health Equity will be new, authoritative and independent. It will collect the latest evidence, provide expert advice and share best practice both locally and internationally. It will build on previous world-renowned research and reviews led by Professor Marmot such as The Whitehall Study and the Fair Society, Healthy Lives review, which underpinned the recent Public Health White Paper.

The Institute has already started to help a number of local organisations take action on the social determinants of health to reduce health inequalities. It will ensure England remains at the forefront of international action and provide vital guidance and support to local organisations during the transition to Public Health England and the new NHS.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:
“A stark picture has emerged in this country over the past 20 years of a growing divide in the health outcomes between rich and poor. For example, men living in Blackpool can expect to live on average 11.5 years less than men living in Kensington and Chelsea.
“The Public Health White Paper already incorporates a social determinants approach as we are creating a new public health system that will improve people’s health and wellbeing and reduce the health inequalities that exist across the country.
“The new Institute of Health Equity will provide invaluable advice and support for local organisations and health professionals during the transition to this fairer system.
“Health inequalities cannot be transformed overnight but the work of Sir Michael Marmot and his team should help turn evidence into action and help improve the health of their local communities.”

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity said:
“Closing the Gap in a Generation’ and Fair Society, Healthy Lives set out a vision to empower people to have control over their lives. I am delighted to see work to tackle health inequalities integrated into the Government’s plans for public health.

“The UCL Institute of Health Equity has a global remit to ensure population health is improved and health inequities are reduced within and between countries, through action on the social determinants of health. To enable individuals to be in control of their own lives action is needed on the social circumstances in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.”

Professor Malcolm Grant, Provost of UCL said:
“Health inequalities pose serious challenges locally, nationally and internationally and defy easy solutions. I therefore welcome with great enthusiasm the UCL Institute of Health Equity, which aims to assist in finding solutions and assessing the evidence to inform policies.

“The Institute builds on UCL’s great strengths in global health and Michael Marmot’s outstanding leadership in the field of promoting a social determinants approach to reducing health inequity.

“Although the NHS remains a model for the rest of the world, inequities persist in England in terms of prevention, presentation and access. We will look to the Institute to assist in tackling this inequity.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA Chairman of Council said:
“Sir Michael Marmot’s term as President of the BMA last year has resulted in a commitment to embed a social determinants approach in dealing with all health problems. We are now working with doctors to equip them with the very best evidence, provided by the Institute, on what they can do to reduce health inequalities.

“The BMA’s recent report Social Determinants of Health: What Can Doctors Do? emphasises while not every doctor has the opportunity to change the life course of individual patients, they can make a difference in other ways. The report highlights examples of good practice where health professionals can refer patients to colleagues from welfare, employment, housing and debt advice services so that the underlying causes of their problems can be addressed.”

Notes to editors

1. For further media enquiries or case studies please call the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

2. The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is Chair of the Cabinet’s Sub-Committee on Public Health.

3. Sir Marmot chaired the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (published 2008) and is currently chairing a WHO commissioned Review on the Social Determinants of Health and the Health Divide in the European Region.

4. Due to the Institute’s networking and initial work, a number of local organisations have taken action on the social determinants of health to address health inequalities. Case studies are available for Blackburn, Gateshead, Nottingham and Well London. For more information about these case studies please contact Felicity Porritt, Head of Communications for the UCL Institute of Health Equity, on or 07739419219.

5. More information on the Institute for Health Equity can be found on its website at

6. Data on life expectancy is available from the Office of National Statistics. The latest data for 2008-10 shows marked differences in life expectancy at birth between local authority areas in England.








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