Last week, the Health Foundation’s Unequal pandemic, fairer recovery report made headlines, revealing that throughout the pandemic, the chances of dying from Covid-19 were nearly four times higher for adults of working age in England’s poorest areas than for those in the wealthiest places.
The report is just the latest in the string of evidence that the pandemic has not been ‘a great leveller’, as some people referred to it back in the spring of 2020. The UK has struggled with deep-rooted, socioeconomic inequalities for years. Those have not only contributed to the country’s high and unequal death toll from Covid-19 but have also been exacerbated and made worse, particularly for some groups, including ethnic minorities, women and those on low pay.
Andy Ratcliffe, Executive Director for Programmes at Impact for Urban Health, has been working with families in the South London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to understand how various inequalities impact population’s health. As he explains:
“Health inequality is the starkest manifestation of other inequalities – unfairness tends to layer on unfairness. If you’re subject to systemic racism, you are also more likely to be poor, live in lower quality housing and then you’re more likely to get sick. All those things interact. Fundamentally, it’s the inequality that’s the issue and health inequality is just the starkest example.”
Looking at the impact of the pandemic, Andy has no doubt that it has made the existing inequalities worse and that this might sadly be just the beginning:
“We layered Covid on top of an already very unequal situation. We haven’t really even started to feel the impacts of the economic pandemic and the long-term health effects of it. We’ve seen a lot of policy changes, such as furlough and the uplift of universal credit, designed to help people through the pandemic. When those start to fall away, we will have an economic wave that could have huge long term health consequences.”