The government has announced the launch of a new body to tackle health inequalities across the country.
The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), set to launch on October 1, will be part of the Department of Health and Social Care and co-led by newly appointed deputy chief medical officer Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy.
The OHID is expected to drive the prevention agenda across government to reduce health disparities, many of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and improve the public’s health.
Health disparities across the UK are stark – for example, a woman living in Blackpool will on average live 16 fewer years in good health than a woman born in Brent, London and someone’s ethnicity can have a significant bearing on their health and health outcomes, the government said.
The new body is set to will tackle the top preventable risk factors for poor health, including obesity caused by unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
It will work across the health system to drive forward action on health disparities, including improving access to health services across the country, and coordinate with government departments to address the wider drivers of good health, from employment to housing, education and the environment.
As the new DCMO for Health Improvement, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy will advise government on clinical and public health matters as the co-lead for OHID, alongside the DHSC Director General for the OHID, Jonathan Marron. They will be under the leadership of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the disparities that exist within our country. We know the virus has had a greater impact on those with poorer health and we must ensure we give people the tools they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, whilst relieving pressures on our NHS.
“By focussing on preventing and not just treating poor health, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will tackle health disparities to break the link between people’s background and their prospects for a healthy life.
“I look forward to Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy coming on board to co-lead the OHID, bringing her extensive knowledge to deliver a meaningful reduction in health disparities for people up and down the country.”
Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, incoming Deputy Chief Medical Officer commented: “The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will play a critical role in reducing health inequalities across the country and build on the important work undertaken over recent years.
“COVID has exposed and exacerbated the health inequalities across the UK. It is critical we address these head-on and support people to live healthier lives. I look forward to getting started.”