The pandemic has shone a light on the unacceptable disparities in health outcomes that exist across the country. The Government are committed to reducing health disparities, addressing the gap in healthy life expectancy that exists between different communities and building on the positive action set out in the levelling up White Paper.
I am therefore pleased to announce that we will take bold action on health disparities through a health disparities White Paper, aiming to break the link between people’s background and their prospect for a healthy life.
We will publish our plans in spring 2022 and look forward to engaging with stakeholders and partners to address this critical agenda.
Linked to the health disparities White Paper, I would also like to announce two reviews with a focus on health disparities:
Independent review on tobacco control
Firstly, I have asked Javed Khan to lead an independent review into smoking in support of the Government’s bold ambition to be smoke free by 2030.
While the Government have made good long-term progress in reducing smoking rates, there are still nearly 6 million smokers in England, and an estimated 64,000 people died from smoking in 2019 alone. Smoking is one of the largest drivers of health disparities and causes a disproportionate burden to our most disadvantaged families and communities.
As a leading figure in the UK public and voluntary sectors, Javed Khan will bring a wealth of experience to help determine what more can be done to drive down smoking rates. The review will support the Government to identify the most impactful interventions to reduce the uptake of smoking, and support people to stop smoking, for good.
The independent, evidence-based findings will inform both the health disparities White Paper and the Government’s new tobacco control plan, which will be published later this year. Javed Khan will report back to the Government in April 2022.
Independent review into medical devices
Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead will lead an independent review of the health impact of potential ethnic bias in the design and use of medical devices.
Professor Dame Margaret Whitehead has vast experience in tackling health inequalities, and for many years has led the work of the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Policy Research on the Determinants of Health Equity.
The review into the design and use of medical devices in the UK aims to:
Identify systematic inequalities in medical devices registered for use in the UK.
Make recommendations on how inequalities should be tackled.
Consider what systems need to be in place to ensure emerging technologies are developed without ethnic inequalities.
Improve global standards to better healthcare and tackle disparities.
I look forward to the outcome of both reviews so we can continue to level up across society and make sure everyone—no matter where they live or come from—can live a long, healthy life.