A new body to tackle health inequalities will launch on 1 October, headed up by a new deputy chief medical officer (DCMO), the Government has announced.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said that the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) will tackle the ‘top risk factors for poor health’, such as obesity, smoking and alcohol consumption.
It will also work on ‘improving access’ to healthcare services, it added.
Newly-appointed DCMO for health improvement in England Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy will co-lead the body with DHSC director general for public health Jonathan Marron, the DHSC announced.
It said: ‘The new body 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.’
The DHSC added that the OHID will ‘help inform a new cross-Government agenda which will look to track the wider determinants of health and reduce disparities’, which have been ‘exacerbated’ by the pandemic.
Health 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.’
Dr de Gruchy, who will step down from her current role as president of the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH), will fill the DCMO vacancy left by Dr Jenny Harries.
She will serve alongside CMO Professor Chris Whitty, DCMOs Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Dr Aidan Fowler and interim DCMO Dr Thomas Waite.
Networks have been asked to design an intervention to address the unmet needs of a population experiencing inequalities within their area, for implementation from March 2022.