Monday, February 1, 2010

The logic of Labour's inequalities agenda

While all around they've been trashing Gordon Brown I've written before on the Men's Health Forum's website about the good things Labour have done for public health and men's health. By seeing health as an inequality issue (with men - unusually - getting the rawer deal), they effectively opened a door that the Conservatives had kept tightly shut.

But recent figures suggest the low-hanging fruit may have all been picked, that the win-wins may have all been won. (Insert the management cliché of your choice.) The Office for National Statistics suggests that the reduction in smoking has come to a coughing and spluttering halt. In the ONS's latest annual lifestyle survey 21% of adults smoked. The same as in 2007. There was even a small increase in smoking among people in 'routine and manual groups'. At the same time we learn that suicides increased during 2008 - the first rise since the 1998 peak. The male rate remains triple that of the female and indeed the gap has widened.

The TUC have pointed out today that the link between unemployment and depression was established a lifetime ago (1940 if not earlier). Their Recession Report cites research by the Social Exclusion Task Force showing the link between depression and job loss is much the same now as it was nearly 20 years ago. In 2008, as in the 2001 recession, as in 1991 recession, about a third of people who lost their job got depressed compared to less than one in five who stayed in work.

So why are we so reluctant to see a link between the economic structures we have in place and public health? Not of interest to the middle England middle ground 50,000 swing voters who determine UK elections? Come on, Gordon, you can do better than that.

Job insecurity kills men and makes them ill. If Labour really can bite the bullet here and follow the implications of their inequality agenda through to a conclusion that these recent figures have only made more obvious, could it yet pull the election iron from the fire of recession? Or will I have to find some new management clichés?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the blog. Sad to see the suicide rise. I can see it being convenient for governent to ignore as being kind to the bulk of the workforce , particularly the "productive" sectors. I can't help think that it suits too many to let men struggle simply because taking on the job isecurity,poor working conditions, unemployment and dangerousness is just too big a job. I've never understood why the ehrc should be so concerned about public shool educated highly paid women merchant bankers, when they have the resources to fight their own corner. It is with some relief that it seems recently policyakers have re-discovered social class as a determinant of health and much else. Ironic that it should be a labour government.