Thirteen local authorities are to receive money from a £50m ‘research boost’ to tackle health inequalities, the government has announced. The money will be used to address challenges including drug use, poor mental health and obesity to ‘improve health outcomes across the country’.
The investment will be overseen by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and used to set up Health Determinants Research Collaborations (HDRCs) between academics and local government. This would help to rectify local ‘knowledge gaps’ and make sure health disparities are being properly addressed, the government states.
Among the HDRCs are Lambeth and Tower Hamlets in London, as well as Aberdeen, Blackpool, Gateshead, Plymouth and others. The move is part of the government’s commitment to ‘empower people to live healthier and longer lives regardless of their background or where they live’, it says. A new resource developed by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) – Health disparities and health inequalities: applying All Our Health – has also been launched, aimed at frontline and senior staff along with commissioners and others.
‘The pandemic shone a light on the stark health inequalities that exist across the country – we are committed to levelling up the health of the nation,’ said health minister Robert Jenrick. ‘This funding will drive progress to address health challenges locally, particularly in the places and communities most affected by ill health such as high levels of obesity, drug use and poor mental health. Everyone should be able to live long, healthy lives regardless of their background and where they live, and this new research will help us deliver on our ambition.’
The announcement comes a day after the Guardian reported that health secretary Thérèse Coffey intended to abandon plans to publish a tobacco control plan this year – according to ‘Whitehall insiders’ – representing the government’s latest ‘controversial U-turn on public health’. While DHSC stated it was ‘inaccurate’ to report that the tobacco plan was being abandoned it did not say ‘if or when it would publish it’, the article said. Ditching the plan would be an ‘own goal’ given smoking’s ‘uniquely devastating impact on health’, ASH chief executive Deborah Arnott told the newspaper.