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by Tom Freeman
24 April 2019
Tax and income measures ‘most effective’ at tackling health inequalities, finds NHS Health Scotland

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Tax and income measures ‘most effective’ at tackling health inequalities, finds NHS Health Scotland

Health inequalities are most effectively tackled by addressing income and wealth inequalities, a report by special health board NHS Health Scotland has found.

In its national overview report ‘Informing Interventions to reduce health Inequalities’, researchers modelled various interventions and their impact on hospitalisation and death rates over the next 20 years.

It found redistributing income from the wealthiest in society to the poorest using the tax and benefit system to be the most effective measure.

This should be boosted by preventative public health measures and treatments to mitigate harmful effects of unhealthy behaviours, it suggested.

It concludes: “Interventions that aim to undo the fundamental causes of health inequalities have the greatest potential to achieve the win–win situation of improved health and reduced health inequalities for the people of Scotland.”

The difference in life expectancy in Scotland between rich and poor is significant. Men experience 23.8 more years of good health and women experience 22.6 more years in the most affluent areas compared to the most deprived areas.

Andrew Pulford, public health intelligence adviser at NHS Health Scotland, and the report’s lead author said: “Health inequalities persist in Scotland, they are unjust but they are not inevitable. 

“Their causes are complex – but we have a good understanding of the range of actions required to reduce them and improve health.  For policy makers, knowing where to focus energy and resources to do this is crucial. 

“Our report shows the potential of the tool to help find the right solution, in the right context.  By comparing a whole host of interventions, we show the breadth of actions that can effect the change we need, and the potential scale of their impact on the health of Scotland’s people.”

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