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Call to Action on Health Inequality

28 January 2010 at 1:57 pm
Lina Caneva
Social Inclusion Conference in Melbourne urged to act on 'staggering health inequalities' worldwide.

Lina Caneva | 28 January 2010 at 1:57 pm


Call to Action on Health Inequality
28 January 2010 at 1:57 pm

Radical action is needed to address staggering health inequalities rooted in socio-economic disadvantage, an international public health expert has told the Social Inclusion Conference in Melbourne.

Addressing the Federal Government’s Social Inclusion Conference on Thursday 28 January, Professor Sir Michael Marmot highlighted the difference in life expectancies between the world’s rich and poor – both within and between countries – to show how socio-economic inequalities lead to huge inequalities in health.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot at the Federal Government's Social Inclusion Conference

Marmot says there is no good reason why a 50 year life expectancy gap exists between women in Zimbabwe and Japan or why in the poorest part of Glasgow, life expectancy for men is 54 years, while only 11km away it is 82.

Professor Marmot is the Director of the International Institute for Society and Health Research, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London. He has led a research group on health inequalities for the past 30 years. 

At the Conference Professor Marmot urged people to stop thinking of social inclusion as an ‘us and them’ equation.  Marmot says that the difference in life expectancy is not just between the poorest members of society and the richest, but exists as a gradient.  It’s not separated into poverty and non poverty – those below the very top have worse health than those at the very top.

Professor Marmot says that it should not be just those in the health sector that care about health inequalities because health is a good marker for how a society is doing.  

Marmot says that by looking at health, and the distribution of health within a country, he can determine whether a government is meeting the needs of its citizens.

Marmot highlighted the impact social and economic inequalities have on health.  He says so-called progressive tax systems have done very little to improve the economic conditions of the poor, and that these economic inequalities must to tackled to make a real change to health inequalities.  He says whilst high income earners pay more income tax,  lower income earners pay far more percentage of their income in consumption tax, and are therefore paying an overall higher percentage of their income in tax.

He says that acting to improve the health of the disadvantaged is also a moral point, an act of social justice. Marmot says society needs to start providing realistic benefits for the poor in society – if there is enough money in society, there shouldn’t be people without enough money to live.

The 2-day Social Inclusion Conference is being hosted by the Federal Government. Its aim to is to exchange ideas, discuss topics and learn from participants on how to build a more socially inclusive Australia.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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