Pathway and over 90 health representatives from the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA), have written to the Prime Minister, calling for a cross-government strategy to address the underlying causes of health inequalities.

Now is the time for bold action to level up health as we move into the next phase of pandemic recovery. We need an explicit health inequalities strategy, with clear measurable goals, that considers the role of every department and every available policy lever in tackling health inequality.

The Alliance has been encouraged since its first letter in October 2020, by the commitments government has made that signal a welcome move towards a more joined-up approach to reducing health inequality. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities and reference to ‘a new cross-government agenda which will look to track the wider determinants of health and reduce disparities’, the cross-government ministerial board on prevention, and the Levelling Up white paper, all hold great potential to be the catalyst needed to tackle health inequalities.

The next step would be to strengthen and underpin this work with an explicit cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities, involving all government departments. If we are to prevent ill health in the first place, we need to take action on issues such as poor housing, food quality, communities and place, employment, racism and discrimination, transport and air pollution.

Many deaths could have been prevented if there had been better levels of general health before the pandemic. The recovery from COVID-19 must be a turning point for the health of the nation.

The Royal College of Physicians, as convenors of the IHA, has published a short policy briefing setting out the case for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities. Learn more here.