Newly published research from the Kings Fund indicates that health inequalities will be exacerbated if comprehensive action is not taken to tackle unhealthy lifestyle behaviours amongst the poor.
The study looked at the number of people engaging in multiple activities that pose a risk to health, including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity and poor consumption of fruit and vegetables. Results showed that whilst there has been a significant drop in the proportion of people in England engaging in multiple unhealthy behaviours, almost all the improvement has been amongst higher socioeconomic and better-educated groups.
The authors state that the overall reduction in multiple unhealthy lifestyle behaviours constitutes “an unsung public health success”, however they highlight targeting individual unhealthy behaviours may not be the answer for improving health outcomes amongst the poorest groups.
The report uses minimum pricing as an example of the Coalition Government’s commitment to interventionist public health measures when necessary. However, the authors raise concerns about the Department of Health’s lack of a “generally holistic approach to lifestyle risk”, with fears that without an integrated approach to behaviour change, the Government will fail to achieve its stated goal of improving the health of the poorest, fastest.