Covid risks making society more unequal than since early Victorian times | Gabriel Scally

As life expectancy stalls and infant mortality rises, abolishing Public Health England will only make things worse

In the midst of Covid-19 it is easy to forget that the country is facing not just one, but two, very badly managed public health emergencies. The substantial and largely avoidable death toll in the current epidemic is undoubtedly due to a series of ill-informed and inept decisions about how the country should respond to its greatest public health crisis in more than a century. But the virus’s task was undoubtedly made easier by a serious deterioration in the health of the population over the past decade.

Since the beginning of the 20th century life expectancy in England has improved consistently. Until the last decade that is. As a result of government policies over the last 10 years improvement in life expectancy has stalled, and for women in the most deprived areas it has actually fallen. The widening gap between life expectancy in the best-off and worst-off areas is now almost 10 years for men and seven and a half years in women. Similarly, the infant mortality rate for England and Wales reached its lowest point in 2014 and has been consistently higher ever since. Across a whole range of other public health indicators, such as drug-related deaths, sexually transmitted diseases and childhood immunisations, the position has been deteriorating.

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