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What is the Health Hap?

We can see differences in people’s health across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and there is a widening gap in health between the richest and poorest. Men in the least deprived areas can expect to live 13-14 years longer than those in the most deprived areas of the city. The gap for women is 8-9 years.

Social class is a major cause of these differences in health, or ‘health inequality’. Discrimination because of someone’s sex, race, disability, age and sexual orientation, combined with a person’s social class can have a harmful effect on health. People also experience a decrease in health as their social position decreases. This is called the health gradient.

What can the NHS do to tackle the Health Gap?

NHSGGC has an important role to play in reducing health inequalities by the way that it provides its services and gives out its resources. The NHS has worked in communities with the worst health and helped people find ways to become healthier. However, this has not affected the size of the health gap because more wealthy communities have been improving their health as quickly, or more quickly than poorer communities.

Those who need health care the most often have the least access to it (sometimes called the ‘Inverse Care Law’).In Glasgow, GP practices are evenly spread throughout the city – which does not reflect the distribution of poor health. Also, the way health care is organised favours people who:

  • have knowledge of the health care system and the confidence and assertiveness to use it;
  • can communicate and can be communicated with at several levels i.e. have spoken English as their first language, who can read and who have no sensory impairments such as blindness;
  • can travel easily to hospitals, health centres etc or for whom there are no physical barriers (such as difficulties walking); and
    have health problems which are largely unrelated to their life circumstances or discrimination 

NHSGGC’s work on inequalities is designed to deal with these issues and find ways of sharing resources in a fairer manner. It also works with its partners to improve the underlying causes of differences in health, such as education, employment, housing, transport and other public services.

Useful resources

Linked pages 

Addressing Income Inequality, Poverty & Social Issues

Welfare Reform

Poverty & Human Rights

Other Useful Links

World Health Organisation Commission on Social Determinants of Health

Scottish Public Health Observatory-Health Inequalities