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Press release

The King's Fund responds to the latest ONS data on ethnic and socio-demographic inequalities in mortality rates for common physical health conditions

Responding to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data on ethnic and socio-demographic inequalities in mortality rates for common physical health conditions: England, 21 March 2021 to 31 January 2023, Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said:

‘Today’s ONS release provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date national profile of ethnic inequalities in mortality in England. It paints a complex picture, with differences between ethnic minority and the White British groups, between different ethnic minority groups, and across different health conditions.

‘Overall mortality is lower in ethnic minority groups compared with the White British group, because they have lower mortality from some major diseases such as cancer and dementia. However, mortality from several largely preventable conditions, for example, some cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, is higher among ethnic minority groups. The data also shows mortality patterns differ by condition and ethnicity. For example, South Asian groups experience higher mortality from heart disease than the White group whereas Black groups don’t, and mortality from diabetes is higher than the White group in both the South Asian and Black groups. Many factors, specific to ethnicity and beyond, contribute to these differences.

‘This ONS data also shows, yet again, that mortality is highest in deprived areas and among the unemployed, and there is a north-south gradient with mortality higher in the north of England. Ethnicity alone does not determine a person’s health, so any efforts to improve a community’s health should take account of all the determinants including deprivation and region.

‘More and more people in England are living with long-term ill health, while the gap between the healthiest and least healthy continues to widen. Not only does this increase pressures on the NHS, but it is also taking a toll on the economy by increasing the number of people out of work due to sickness. This national decline into worsening health can be reversed by tackling preventable conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and smoking- and obesity-related cancers.

‘The data highlights that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving the health of different communities. Ministers, NHS leaders, council leaders and others all need to be fully aware of these nuanced differences and the factors driving them. As political parties gear up for the next election, if they want to curb demand for NHS services while also boosting the economy, they must develop clear plans for preventing ill health that address the specific needs of different communities.’

Notes to editors

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

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