The Health Inequalities Action Group (HIAG), a multi-faith initiative led by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, to explore London’s health inequalities and how faith groups can and do contribute to the health of their communities, has published its report: ‘On Faith, Place and Health: Harnessing the Power of Faith Groups to Tackle London’s Health Inequalities’.
At an event at The Old Deanery near St Paul’s Cathedral on 10th October, Bishop Sarah presented the report, which makes a number of recommendations aiming to tackle health inequalities. These include supporting the development and integration of an Interfaith Health Council with national health structures to represent faith communities.
The publication comes a few weeks after reports of the Government shelving the long-anticipated Health Disparities White Paper, which led to a coalition of over 155 medical organisations writing to the Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey, urging her to maintain the Government’s commitment to publish its white paper by the end of this year. In her remarks, Bishop Sarah restated those calls and pointed to the HIAG report as a further sign of the urgent need to address the rampant health inequalities faced not only in the Capital, but across the United Kingdom.
The report follows a year-long consultation capturing stories of health inequalities in the Capital and the work undertaken to mitigate against them by faith communities over the last two years. These stories include an incident in Southall in West London where a 71-year-old Sikh who had a stroke and was unable to speak had his moustache and beard cut without obtaining his permission or seeking the consent of his family. It also includes stories that further demonstrates the extent to which faith and community groups stepped in to support their communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The HIAG is supported by a coalition of faith groups and civil society organisations, including East London Mosque and the Health Foundation. Conversations are underway between HIAG members to agree how best this work is taking forward following today’s report publication. Further updates will be made in due course.
The Lord Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, said:
“My experience serving in the National Health Service and the Church of England has led me to the belief that co-operation between faith communities and public health institutions is potentially transformational. Today’s report of the Health Inequalities Action Group provides an overwhelming evidential basis to that claim, and should remind us all to never take for granted the support communities here in our Capital – which are so beset with increasingly visible health inequalities – derive from faith and other civil society organisations.”
“In the quest for health outcome improvement, we can leave no one behind. That is why recent reports of the shelving of the Government’s Health Disparities White Paper are tough to swallow. It’s my sincere hope that the Government joins us in looking for solutions, rather than burying its head in the sand.”
Sheikh Mohammed Mahmoud OBE, Imam of East London Mosque, said:
“I see the evidence of health inequalities first hand in Tower Hamlets: families experiencing poor health through no fault of their own, struggling to receive the care they need. They don’t only need this care, they deserve it. It is a national failure that people living in deprived areas live shorter lives, spend more of their lives in ill health and have poorer access to health care than people in more affluent areas. I’m glad to have been involved in this vital work and hope the Government act on these recommendations.”
Jo Bibby, Director of Health at The Health Foundation, sad:
“With health inequalities widening and many people facing increasing hardship this winter, it is essential that all parts of society pull together to support people’s health and wellbeing. As a member of the action group I was privileged to hear first-hand the vital role that faith groups played during the pandemic. This has shown us what is possible when the NHS and councils support and embrace the assets that sit within their communities. I hope this report will galvanise further action in London – and across the UK.”