Love it or Hate it

February 11th, 2011
Do you know what Health Inequalities are? Do you care?

If you’ve answered no to both of those questions then I think I can safely say that you don’t work in a health related sector and you don’t have a long term health condition. Ok, that’s a generalisation but it’s probably a reasonable one.

The problem with health, and health related matters, is that, generally, people don’t give a toss unless they’re paid to, or they have no choice. People care about the NHS but they care about it is a structure rather than the concepts that underlie it. Most of the activism around health, by the healthy population, purely relates to the opening and closure of hospitals. That’s fair enough, the visible structures are by their very nature visible.

Of the two categories I am firmly in the former. My knee has started hurting a bit recently but overall I care about conceptual health because I’m paid to.

The lack of a wider understanding of the impact of health is a shame. The health of a nation is relatively easy to measure and is a very good proxy for the wider conditions people live in. We can understand a lot about a population from how long they live.

Unfortunately it isn’t a subject that instantly grabs people. There aren’t many laughs in health inequalities. A constant diet of dead babies, fags and chips has a habit of putting people off.

Earlier this week the NHS in Birmingham (and Solihull) organised a ¬†consultation event relating to the recent Government White Paper on Public Health, I gave my somewhat flippant views on that a few weeks ago. I won’t bother again.

Part of this event involved a talk by Sir Michael Marmot. Yes, I know, Sir Michael Marmot.

I know who he is because I’m paid to know. All you need to know is that within the context of Public Health he is somewhat like 50 Cent. Never has a worse analogy been committed.

My problem with Michael Marmot is his name. I seem to fluctuate between thinking his surname is either marmoset or Marmite. It’s neither.

A few years ago he produced a report on Health Inequalities called the Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England post 2010. Also known as the Marmot Review.

I instinctively think this should be a systematic test of whether marmosets like Marmite or not. I reckon they probably don’t.

There is a rich heritage of writing reports on social inequity, health inequalities and the determinants of health. Sir Douglas Black did it in 1980 with the ominously titled Black Report. The Government didn’t like it and it got swept away.

Our current Government seem to be going with the Marmot Review, which is no bad thing.

Through the wonders of the Internet Sir Michael Marmot’s talk got captured for the world to see. This is where I finally get round to the point.

You should watch this video. I know I’m asking you to watch a half hour video of a man in a suit talking about death. The difference is that this is fairly entertaining, it will certainly give you an insight into how health impacts on the wider population. There is at least one laugh in there and he does get very angry (though only for a second).

Putting Local Communities at the Heart of Public Health – Professor Sir Michael Marmot from Solihull NHS Care Trust on Vimeo.

One of the things I can’t quite work out is why I instinctively fixate on marmosets. After all, the marmot is an animal in its own right. I think they also wouldn’t like Marmite.

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Posted in Misc, Politics | Comments (1)

One Response to “Love it or Hate it”

  1. Simon Whitehouse Says:

    After that build up I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t come on with a scythe, wearing a hooded black cloak.

    I thought his point about health inequalities being graded and so focusing on the people at the very bottom misses most of the story to be thought provoking.

    But that graph of income distribution over the past 30 years was a shocker. It really does challenge the idea that Labour were a progressive party who redistributed wealth through taxation and benefits.

    What would be instructive would be to look at that income distribution in a more fine-grained way. I suspect that the ~5% increase in share of the first percentile may be disproportionately down to huge increases in the very highest earners.

    Oh, and does Marmot like Marmite?I think he does.

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