Noticia de Mathew Limb en el BMJ (el resaltado en negrita es mío)
European austerity programmes are a “ghastly experiment” that will lead to more citizens’ deaths, says a leading expert on health inequalities.
Michael Marmot spoke about the link between rising unemployment and higher mortality rates, including suicides.
He warned of the effects of government policies in countries such as Spain and Portugal that he said were being pursued at the behest of financial markets and central banks.
“If unemployment rises as a result of government policy that is an emergency,” he said. “European governments have been told they must screw their economies down so far that people are killing themselves.”
Marmot, who is director of the Institute of Health Equity at University College London, was the keynote speaker at a Westminster Health Forum seminar, Health Inequalities 2012, in London on 18 April.
He led a review for the previous Labour government on health inequalities in England, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, which was published in 2010 (BMJ 2010;340:c818, doi:10.1136/bmj.c818).
Marmot told the seminar that health inequalities were not inevitable and governments could do much to tackle the problem across all policies, reduce deprivation, and improve the social environment.
It was vital to provide support to parents, bolster early child development and education, create work for young people, and reduce social isolation among older people, he said.
“The worst male life expectancy in London is in Tottenham. What a surprise the riots began there, not in Kensington and Chelsea,” he said.
He also said he could cycle across Westminster and in 35 minutes would track a “17 year gap in life expectancy” from one end of the borough to the other.
Marmot said that countries that had the greatest social spending had the lowest mortality rates.
He said the need to tackle health inequalities in the UK was now supported by all political parties and by the coalition government.
But he said child poverty was predicted to rise in the UK under coalition policies. “If you put fairness at the heart of all policy making it wouldn’t do that,” he said.
David Buck, a senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said that life expectancy, one of the main indicators of health inequalities, was still improving in England.
But he said that there remained large inequalities within neighbourhoods and that more research was needed to find out why some areas fared better than others.
Buck said efforts to reduce health inequalities could be boosted by some of the coalition government’s reforms—including the new role for local government in public health, the creation of health and wellbeing boards and Public Health England, and new responsibilities being placed on the NHS.
But he said the wider environment had “changed for the worse,” citing cuts to social welfare spending. He said the effects of recession and economic problems would take time to feed through.
The seminar heard concerns about the possible impact of commissioning reforms and public spending cutbacks on vulnerable groups such as homeless people, travellers, and women at risk of domestic violence.
Patrick Ryan, chief executive of the charity Hestia Housing and Support, said, “Our experience is that safety nets have been decimated at a time when more people are at risk.”
Kate Ardern, director of public health for NHS Ashton, Leigh and Wigan, said that action taken locally to implement the Marmot Review recommendations had helped to improve life expectancy levels.
“We’ve turned round what was a failing public health economy by doing public health on an industrial scale,” she told the seminar.