Brown on health inequalities

In: Uncategorized

9 Nov 2008

The British prime minister’s speech last week on global health inequalities was a classic of grand rhetoric and small ambitions. Gordon Brown sounded like he was making a humanistic speech with his concerns about such things as high infant mortality and low life expectancy in much of the world:

“Today a woman born in Zambia is likely to live half as long as a woman born in Japan; half a million mothers will die each year, one mother in eight dies in childbirth in some of the poorest countries like Sierra Leone, and one of the reasons is that of six million people in that country there are only 200 nurses, 100 doctors and 80 midwives.”

The problem with Brown’s speech was that it separated health inequalities from social inequality in a broader sense – the gross economic inequality in the world. In that way he could turn the poorer countries into grateful recipients of Western aid rather than support the cause of true equality through development. Such a conception is also embodied in the Department of Health’s Health is Global report published last year.

In addition, Brown announced that Michael Marmot will conduct a review of health inequalities in Britain. Marmot was one of the key thinkers behind the recent World Health Organization report on global health inequalities (see 29 August 2008 post).

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