Health and Economic Inequalities

Essay by ski1974University, Bachelor'sC+, October 2009

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The Black Report (1980) was initially responsible for instigating the public health and inequality debate. The Report demonstrated that although overall health had improved since the introduction of the welfare state, health inequalities in the UK were still widespread, with poverty said to be the main cause for these inequalities. (Bartley, 2004)Poverty is measured and defined in two terms: Absolute and Relative. Both these definitions can have an adverse influence on individuals' health (Calman, 1997). Absolute poverty as defined by Walsh, Stephens & Moore (1999) is basic human needs, in terms of shelter, clothing and food. Anything less than the minimum standard needed to live on, is said to be below the 'Poverty line' and living in absolute poverty. Poverty is used here to indicate a fixed and minimum set of basic resources, which all individuals are said to require in order for physically sustaining life.

Relative poverty refers to a situation in which a person lacks the necessary resources to enable them to participate in the normal and desirable patterns of life that exist in their society.

People, who earn less than 60% of the median income of their society, are classed as living in relative poverty. As societies become more affluent, standards for relative poverty are gradually adjusted upwards accordingly (O'Donnell, 1992). This poverty is comparable in nature, and usually compares one group of individuals against another, in terms of income levels and/or social positions.

Poverty is an issue that many social workers are likely to address and tackle throughout practice. Cunningham & Cunningham, (2008: 32) state that"Social work service users are amongst the most impoverished people in Britain and for many, poverty defines their lives".

Evidence suggests that the more equal the income distribution of a particular country, the better its average level of health. Inequalities of...