Welcome to Health Equals!
Right now, in the UK, things like poverty and poor living conditions are damaging health and cutting lives short. The situation is profoundly serious.
The world around us shapes our health and wellbeing, from stable jobs and social connection to neighbourhoods with green space, clean air and quality homes. These things are what we call the building blocks of good health and wellbeing. But these building blocks aren’t available to everyone, or not at the quality needed.
This is where Health Equals comes in, and I invite you to get involved. Our purpose is quite clear – to set out what shapes health and how this leads to health inequalities in an engaging way, and motivate people and policymakers to recognise and buy into turning the situation around.
Health inequalities, and why they occur, are hugely complex. It takes a huge breadth of understanding to be across it all and understand the right thread of cause and effect. How do you communicate this kind of complexity sufficiently so that people get it, can act, and feel they can do something that will make a change? It’s an industry in itself – the pursuit of understanding what’s going on. This must be balanced with listening to those most affected and what change in their world needs to happen, and a focus on galvanising around opportunities for change. Most people don’t care about the intellectual detail, they just want and deserve to be healthier, and need to know who to demand change from.
The power of Health Equals comes from several places and will grow in time. First, it comes from an astute funder who recognises that turning the tide on health inequalities needs a different approach and making waves requires campaign resources and a long-term plan.
Secondly, it comes from diverse sector involvement and a genuinely inclusive approach. One that recognises and respects how spread-out responsibility for health and wellbeing is, and fosters a movement based on this. Evidence shows that our health is shaped by the world around us, not just by the health service and access to it, or by being able to get to the gym. The world around us is what mostly dictates whether we’ll die at 58 or 92. The NHS is a cherished institution and needs help, but it was never meant to go it alone on supporting health. To get serious on health and alleviate pressures on the NHS, we need to look at what around us supports health, and within different communities across the UK.
So, on that basis, you work on poverty? Health Equals is for you because poverty and bad health outcomes are partners in crime. You work on environmental issues? Health Equals is for you because the health of our environment is intrinsically linked to how well people are. Interested in homes that are warm and safe? Then Health Equals is for you because poor quality homes make people sick, and healthy homes nourish you daily. See health inequalities as a social justice issue, or just angry about the pollution in your street that makes you gag in the morning? You should be – it’s shortening your life. Health Equals is for you. All these areas add up to good health if understood and invested in right. And shaping policies with health in mind has real potential to shift the dial on health inequalities overall.
So, what are we going to do? We need to ensure we can communicate clearly about what’s going on and the opportunities for change to a variety of audiences, and that we are bringing together the right information to support our cause and underpin the call for specific policy change. Over the coming year we will be developing and endorsing campaigns that we hope in time are effective at reducing health inequalities in a major way, and which specifically focus on issues affecting people’s lives right now.
The third but most important source of power for Health Equals is people. Particularly people who care about this issue and are seeing their lives affected in what should be avoidable ways. We need to start engaging the public, the people who deserve longer, healthier lives regardless of where they are born, live and work, and lean into their voices and experiences. So, we will be launching campaigns throughout 2023 designed to surface their views and voices, and in time foster ways in which they can bring about change that matters to them and at a national level.
I took up this role because I was shocked by the statistics on health inequalities and the revelation that I knew so little about what shapes health. I realise I can only do so much to protect my and my family’s health, but I also realise that I’m privileged in many regards in having had access to the building blocks for good health. I’m still shocked by the extent of health inequalities, how they affect society’s prospects and erode our collective resilience. And by how little attention is given to the need to invest in the building blocks that support health for all. Life is precious and for many it is unjustly and avoidably being leaked away. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Have I got your interest?