Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid has delivered a speech setting out the priorities to tackle health inequality, spearheaded by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), a new organisation that begins work at the start of October.
In 'The hidden costs of Covid-19: the social backlog', delivered at The Grange Community Centre in Blackpool, Javid referred to the "weighty responsibility of shifting the dial on how we improve health and prevent disease" and explained that OHID's name was a statement of intent – "a driving mission to ‘level up’ health and ensure everyone has the chance to live happy and healthy lives."
OHID will be jointly led by new Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jeanelle de Gruchy and the Director General Jonathan Marron.
Javid outlined three key priorities that he wanted OHID to focus on:
How we prevent poor mental and physical health
Tackle healthy inequality and improve access to health services
Act on wider factors that affect health outcomes
"We know prevention is better than cure. So this means being bold to tackle the biggest killers – especially the preventable ones," he explained, going on to call-out tobacco, obesity, poor diets and alcohol, and the disproportionate impact on deprived areas and black communities. "We need to do more to understand and tackle these inequalities. We need to make it easier for people to access screening services and diagnostics. And we need to make sure that everyone can get the support they need from primary care – which is often the first to spot the early signs of a problem."
Javid was keen to link the focus on healthcare inequality to the Government's wider levelling up agenda: "We can’t level up economically without levelling up in health, and it’s equally true that we can’t tackle health disparities without tackling wider disparities too."
James is the Editor of GovX Digital, and has been covering digital government and public sector reform for 20 years. He also oversees the development of the agenda for the UK's biggest public sector transformation conference.