Tomorrow is the General Election. I am pretty sure that a General Election is never good for anyone’s health, but this one seems to be more extreme than others. Brexit has caused division and tension within our communities, and markets and business have been paralysed by the uncertainty over our relationship with Europe.
As in all elections, health is one of the key battlegrounds but in 2019 this is more extreme than ever following the insertion of the NHS in the US-UK trade talks by President Donald Trump and the fall in confidence in our politicians following recent events, including the referendum campaign claim, printed on the side of a bus, that £350m a week could be diverted from our payments from the EU to the NHS.
Aside from the politicking and its effects on our health, a report released on the 19th November 2019 by The Health Foundation, shows worrying trends in UK health that we will have to deal with whatever the outcome of both the General Election and Brexit.
The report found that long-term improvements in life expectancy and mortality in the UK have stalled and are falling behind other high-income countries. At the same time the difference between the health of people living in the best and worst-off communities is widening; healthy life expectancy (the number of years people can expect to live in good health) is sitting at just 52 years in the most deprived areas compared to 70 years in the most affluent.
In 2010 there were major reductions in overall public spending but there has also been a change in the balance of that spending. The biggest cuts have been in areas that are important for promoting good health more widely, while spending on services which address acute, avoidable problems has often grown.
The report recommended that action is needed across the whole of government to address these trends and that investment needs to be directed towards areas of public spending that create the right conditions for people to lead healthy lives.
This is an important shift away from ‘sticking plaster’ medicine, vital though that often is, to spending money on addressing wider problems in health and the causes of ill health. Addressing health in a holistic way should form a key part of the government’s response to these crises, for not only is health a vital asset to the country, it is arguably our most precious possession.
Research both within the academy and in the Guild has shown that our churches have a great opportunity to be part of community health promotion. There are, afterall, more churches in the UK than health centres. Please do follow the Guild over the next year as we pilot and launch an ambitious new project called Healthy Healing Hubs which aims to not only support the health of people in our communities but to do so because we are following the mandate of Christ to both make disciples and to heal.
What I believe is vital for the future of our country is a reduction in hyperbole, a respect for truth seeking, action at the point of need, and the attention needed to solve complex problems that will almost certainly benefit from a multidisciplinary approach.