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Government ministers recognize that wealth divide is health divide

| January 10, 2013

Government ministers in Scotland are to order a ‘fundamental re-think’ of government efforts to close Scotland’s massive health gap between rich and poor after having conceded that curbs on smoking and drinking are not effective alone, according to a story by Eddie Barnes in The Scotsman.

Barnes quotes from a piece in Scotland on Sunday by the Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, which said that while flagship smoking and alcohol laws passed by MSPs (members of the Scottish parliament) in recent years had cut deaths, they would ‘not end the problem’ of health inequalities in Scotland.

His comments were said to have followed a hard-hitting report by Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Harry Burns, which warned that ‘magic bullet’ policies, such as bans on smoking and healthy eating drives, actually widened the gap between rich and poor because affluent people were far more likely than were the poor to respond to them.

The latest figures have shown that Scotland now has a health gap wider than anywhere else in Europe, with the poorest people in the country dying 20 years before the country’s richest.

What Barnes described as the ‘scandal’ of Scotland’s health gap was revealed in Scottish government figures last year. Among men, the 10 per cent living in the most affluent parts of the country can expect to live until the age of 82.0 years, or 13.3 years longer than those in the most deprived parts of the country. For women the equivalent figures are 84.6 years and 67.1.

And the gap in healthy life expectancy is even wider. Men in the richest parts of the country can expect to reach the age of 70.0 before experiencing any serious health problems, while the figure for those in the poorest areas is 47.4 years. The equivalent figures for women are 73.2 years and 51.1 years.

Category: Breaking News

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