The King's Fund welcomes Secretary of State for Health's promise of sustained assault on health inequalities

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'A relentless and sustained effort across government and the NHS is the surest way of reducing the health gap between rich and poor in Britain,' The King's Fund chief executive Rabbi Julia Neuberger said today.

Responding to Alan Milburn's speech at the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, Julia Neuberger said:

'The Secretary of State for Health has today committed the government to a new approach to health policy. We especially welcome the creation of a cabinet committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, to give measures to tackle health inequalities the political clout they desperately need.

'Men in East Dorset can expect to live for nine more years than those living in Glasgow. Infant mortality in Hackney is 10 times worse than in Kingston-upon-Thames.

'Bringing down such a huge gap demands a concerted effort from the whole of government. It requires the NHS to put more of its resources into preventing illness and promoting health. But it also means investing in better housing, in job opportunities and in community safety in our most deprived communities.'

Julia Neuberger commented: 'Earlier this year, Derek Wanless' report to the Treasury made it clear that major investment in health improvement was essential to control NHS spending. By reducing the burden of avoidable illness on society, everyone benefits. Safer, healthier communities are good for the economy. The alternative is an unnecessary further rise in demand on the NHS alongside higher rates of absenteeism from work and long-term dependence on benefits for more people.

'Health improvement does not yield immediate results. There will be little to show for such efforts by the next election, yet the long-term benefits are considerable. If today really does herald a sea change in public policy, it is a big step forward for the whole of our society.'

Notes to editors

1. For interviews or background information on health inequalities, please contact Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927.