Health equity must be at the heart of government and business strategy rather than narrow economic goals, according to a new framework and recommendations from the UCL Institute of Health Equity (IHE) on how to reduce health inequities after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Framework is part of a new Marmot Review and comes as life expectancy falls for everyone across the UK, and health inequities widen, at a cost of £39 billion every year. 

Commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, the new review, ‘Build Back Fairer in Greater Manchester: Health Equity and Dignified Lives’, looks at why the city had a 25% higher Covid-19 death rate than England as a whole in the 13 months to March 2021.

This high death rate contributed to a decline in life expectancy in the North West region, which was larger than the average in England. Life expectancy fell in 2020 by 1.6 years for men and 1.2 years for women in the North West compared 1.3 years and 0.9 years, respectively, across England. 

Pandemic has brutally exposed inequality

IHE’s Director, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, said: “Greater Manchester has high levels of avoidable health inequalities as a result of longstanding economic and social inequities, and as across the country, ethnic disadvantage.

"The City Region has also experienced high rates of mortality from Covid-19 and particularly damaging long-term economic and social effects during the pandemic as a result of prolonged lockdowns. These multiple negative impacts will damage health and widen health inequalities unless action to build back fairer is introduced across the City Region."

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, who launched the Marmot Review 10 Years On in 2020 said the Covid pandemic has exposed and amplified the reality that many of our residents have lives, jobs and homes which worsen their health.

He added: “The pandemic has brutally exposed just how unequal England actually is. People have lived parallel lives over the last 18 months. People in low-paid, insecure work have often had little choice in their level of exposure to Covid; and the risk of getting it and bringing it back home to those they live with.

“Levelling up needs to start in the communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic. To improve the nation’s physical and mental health, we need to start by giving all of fellow citizens a good job and good home. We are grateful to Michael Marmot for showing how Greater Manchester can improve the health of our residents and we hope the Government will back us with the resources and powers to put better health at the heart of our recovery.”