Rich-Poor health gap remains, report shows

19 December 2017, 14:17

poverty

Significant health inequalities persist between the richest and poorest parts of Scotland, a new report shows.

Official figures tracking key indicators of inequality over time reveal the gap between health outcomes for those in the most and least deprived parts of the country.

The report found that for a number of indicators, absolute inequality - or the difference between the most and least well off - has narrowed over the long term.

The gap in premature mortality rates for under-75s has reduced by 15% from a peak in 2002, however it has increased each year since 2013.

The difference in deaths from coronary heart disease has halved from its widest point in 1998, while the gap in alcohol-related hospital admissions had shrunk by 32% since 1996.

The gap in the percentage of babies born with low birth-weight has reduced by 30% since a high in 2004.

While the gap in alcohol-related deaths is currently 28% lower than its 2002 peak, it has been increasing since 2013 and is now 13% higher than in 1997.

The report also looks at relative inequalities, or the difference between the most deprived areas and the Scottish average.

The gap in alcohol-related hospital admissions has remained the highest over the longer term, while relative inequalities in heart attack admissions have increased since 2008, and the difference in cancer incidence has stayed relatively stable.

Relative inequalities in coronary heart disease, cancer and premature mortality have all increased over the long term.

Trisha Hatt from Macmillan Cancer Support said: "It's disappointing to see that those in deprived areas are still so much more likely to die from cancer than those in the rest of Scotland. It's especially worrying to see this relative survival gap is higher now than in 1996.

"Tackling health inequalities is a central aim of the Scottish Government's cancer plan and this report shows it's more vital than ever that the plan's promises are delivered."

BMA Scotland highlighted the gap in healthy life expectancy between Scotland's least deprived and most deprived communities of 26 years for men and 22.2 years for women.

Chairman Dr Peter Bennie said: "These latest statistics show that efforts to tackle health inequalities still have a long, long way to go.

"The gap in healthy life expectancy between our most and least deprived communities is stark and should shame us as a society.

"Far greater action is needed to address Scotland's health inequalities. That means stronger public health measures to address issues like obesity and alcohol misuse, but it also requires action to address problems like low pay, poor educational outcomes, and inadequate housing.

"We cannot keep letting more years pass without stronger action from every level of government to address these persistent inequalities."