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Determinants of Health Update September 2021

Welcome to this month’s policy update from HLA:THINK

Through these regular updates we will share with you some of the key developments in different areas of health and care policy, all through publicly available resources.

If you are interested in the work of HLA:Think and would like to get involved, feel free to contact us on

Place of residence, COVID-19, and health

A recent study demonstrated an association between local government spending cuts and adverse health outcomes. In particular, cuts in funding were associated with an increase in the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived quintiles by 3% for men and 4% for women. Considering that the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic tended to be worse in the more deprived areas across the North of England (see recent report from the Northern Health Science Alliance, Policy@Manchester and northern National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaborations), this may results in a negative feedback loop that will exacerbate existing health disparities. These types of regional disparities are not an isolated phenomenon. A Swiss study found that people living in neighbourhoods of low socioeconomic positions (SEP) were less likely to be tested but more likely to test positive, be admitted to hospital, or die, compared with those in areas of high SEP.

European Health Union

The September plenary session of the European Parliament will discuss European Commission proposals to strengthen the European Centre for disease prevention and control (ECDC) and introduce a Regulation on serious cross-border threats to health. These are two of three proposals that comprise the so-called European health union legislative package aiming to strengthen the EU’s health security framework. Concretely, the new ECDC mandate would include the prevention of communicable diseases, build an integrated systems enabling real-time epidemiological surveillance and automated contact tracing, and establish an EU Health Task Force to to assist local outbreak response teams (see EP summary). The new Regulation would develop an EU health crisis and pandemic preparedness plan, introduce preparedness audits and stress-tests, and allow the EU to declare a state of emergency triggering increased coordination and allow for the development, stockpiling and procurement of crisis relevant products (see EP summary).

Supply Chain Issues

During the pandemic, ocean freights have had to compensate for reductions in air freight capacity due to restrictions in passenger travel. The increased demand for ocean freights led to a shortage of shipping containers, shipping rates for certain routes skyrocketing, and congestion at international ports. All these factors are thought to be at further risk due to the threat of extreme weather. Supply chain disruptions have been worsened by reductions in factory production in Asia and a shortage of truck drivers. The International Food Policy Research Institute published a report on the dangers that these supply chain disruptions present to global food security. In responde, the United Nations Food Systems Summit on 23 September 2021 was conceived to develop equitable, healthy and sustainable responses to ensure that “no one is left behind” as we “build back better” from COVID-19. The Global Food Security Index has been tracking global food security since 2017.



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