This week I was reminded about a piece of work I did a few years ago on health inequalities. I was fortunate enough at the time to meet Sir Michael Marmot (see pic gallery) when he launched “Fair Society, Healthy Lives”. A highly intelligent and inspirational man, able to translate the story of health inequalities into a language I understood.
This week I went along and met another inspiring lady Henrietta Crocker-Poole who 25 years ago established Battersea Summer Scheme. A scheme aimed at improving the life chances for the children of Battersea. This meeting reminded me of why it is so important for us to care about inequalities in society- inequalities is everyone’s business.
We had an interesting discussion about poverty and being disadvantaged and what that means today. The UK is a relatively rich country and poverty and disadvantage here means something different to poverty in Africa. Within the UK itself, the term disadvantage itself is based upon a relative comparison. When you get down to it, it’s no longer about having bread and milk (our benefits system helps deal with this) … but rather lands up being more about what one has, or doesn’t have in relation to others. To illustrate the point, one might be considered poor and disadvantaged, yet have a TV and mobile phone (see The Spirit Level).
So how might an unequal society affect you?
greater health inequalities
poorer mental health outcomes
higher substance abuse rates and
higher suicide rates
You may resign yourself to the fact that inequalities will always be there, true, but “key to Marmot's approach to addressing health inequalities is to create the conditions for people to take control of their own lives”
I like this. Creating opportunities to help people help themselves.
The government has a significant role to create the conditions to support a healthy society. For example; clean air, access to green spaces and law-making such as the smoking ban. Yes, the government is responsible. No, we are all responsible. As an individual, to help someone that needs help, is it to help us all. I refer you back to the list above “how might an unequal society affect you?”.
Besides, it feels good.
So what could you do?
Become a volunteer consultant; use your professional skills to help a charity organisation; for inspiration visit: Linkup
Take on an apprentice, help a young person gain work experience & provide shadowing opportunities visit: Hawk Training
If you are in healthcare, become a “Health Ambassador”
No time? Donate money. This year I’m proud to be supporting Battersea Summer Scheme as professional volunteer. If you would like to make a donation to this fantastic organisation who are helping young people improve their life chances, you can make a donation here
Within my portfolio of work I am currently working with the Wandsworth GP Federation and building links with our local charity & voluntary sector organisations in Wandsworth. If you would like further information, or to get involved, please get in touch with me at email@example.com or on twitter @melanieashdown