A new government office is launched on Friday to “tackle health disparities across the UK,” the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
The new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), a branch of the DHSC, is tasked to focus on the prevention of illnesses by tackling unhealthy habits that are “more prevalent in more deprived areas,” and coordinating with other government departments to “address the wider drivers of good health, from employment to housing, education, and the environment.”
The DHSC said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has written to community leaders, charities, industry experts, and key employers on Friday, asking them to “join the OHID’s mission to act on wider factors that affect people’s health, such as work, housing, and education.”
The new office will be headed by DHSC Director General for the OHID, Jonathan Marron, and Dr. Jeanelle de Gruchy, who is newly appointed as England’s deputy chief medical officer, and they will be under Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, according to a previous statement from the DHSC.
It comes as Public Health England (PHE) is replaced, with the OHID taking on responsibility for health improvement and the new UK Health Security Agency focusing on health protection.
The DHSC quoted PHE figures, saying “men in the most deprived areas in England are expected to live nearly 10 years fewer than those in the least deprived. Women in the same areas can expect to live 7 years fewer.”
The numbers, which were from 2019, increased to 10.3 and 8.3 years respectively during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
According to the DHSC, smoking, one of the leading causes of disparities in life expectancy, is “more prevalent in more deprived areas.” Another health risk, obesity, is widespread, but also “more prevalent among the most deprived areas.”
Other “biggest preventable killers” listed including alcohol and recreational drugs.
The health secretary said the new body “marks a new era of preventative healthcare to help people live healthier, happier, and longer lives.”
“The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will be the driving force across government, supported by communities, academics, industry, and employers, to level up the health of our nation, which will reduce the pressure on our NHS and care services,” Javid said.
PHE was formed in 2013 under the Government’s NHS reforms laid out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
PA contributed to this report.