New Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to launch on 1 Oct

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will officially launch next month with the aim of tackling health inequalities across the country. It will be co-led by newly appointed Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO), Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy.

The OHID will be a key part of the Department of Health and Social Care and will drive the prevention agenda across government to reduce health disparities, many of which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and improve the public’s health.

As the new DCMO for Health Improvement, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy will advise government on clinical and public health matters as the co-lead for OHID, alongside the DHSC Director General for the OHID, Jonathan Marron. They will be under the professional leadership of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy Deputy Chief Medical Officer"The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will play a critical role in reducing health inequalities across the country and build on the important work undertaken over recent years," said Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, incoming Deputy Chief Medical Officer. "COVID has exposed and exacerbated the health inequalities across the UK. It is critical we address these head-on and support people to live healthier lives. I look forward to getting started."

Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy is currently President of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), the Director of Population Health at Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and Chair of the Greater Manchester Association of Directors of Public Health. She will be stepping down from these roles to become DCMO.

Her previous roles include being Director of Public Health at the London Borough of Haringey (2010 to 2018) and Chair of the London Association of Directors of Public Health. Prior to that, she was Deputy Director of Public Health at Nottingham City NHS Primary Care Trust.

The Office will help inform a new cross-government agenda which will look to track the wider determinants of health and reduce disparities. The OHID will bring expert advice, data and evidence together with policy development and implementation to ensure action on improving health is better informed, more effective and more joined-up. It will bring together a range of skills to lead a new era of public health polices, leveraging modern digital tools, data and actuarial science and delivery experts.

Health disparities across the UK are stark – for example, a woman living in Blackpool will on average live 16 fewer years in good health than a woman born in Brent, London and we know someone’s ethnicity can have a significant bearing on their health and health outcomes.

Health disparities can undermine people’s ability to work and live long, healthy, independent lives while creating pressure on the NHS, social care and other public services.

Ill health among working-age people alone costs the economy around £100 billion a year and it’s estimated that 40% of healthcare provision in the UK is being used to manage potentially preventable conditions.

The new body will tackle the top preventable risk factors for poor health, including obesity caused by unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. It will work across the health system to drive forward action on health disparities, including improving access to health services across the country, and coordinate with government departments to address the wider drivers of good health, from employment to housing, education and the environment.

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