The daily e-newsletter for doctors, 6Minutes, suggests that the new PM did not mention health in her first press conference. Actually, I think she did. I’d rank education and climate change as two of the more important health issues around.
It’s a reminder that we continue to confuse health services with the population’s health. Of course health services are important but they are only one of the determinants of health.
Don’t take my word for it. Have a look at this new report from the College of Physicians in the UK, titled “How doctors can close the gap: Tackling the social determinants of health through culture change, advocacy and education”.
The report says: “All doctors should recognise and understand the effects of climate change on health and how healthcare systems will need to adapt in the face of shifting pressures, whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is important to pay attention to social and environmental issues when allocating funds and resources. Those with management responsibility in the health sector need to be informed as to the breakdown of the carbon footprint in their working environment, to enable them to identify areas for improvement. Doctors can also advocate directly to patients and encourage or refer them to take up activities that positively affect both their health and environment.”
Perhaps we all need to be a bit more precise in our language. “Health reform” is most often used as shorthand for health services reform; there is a difference between “health services” and “health”.
As a by the by, the report also says: “Many doctors have long seen their role as curing illness and have paid insufficient attention to their responsibilities in promoting and protecting health, preventing ill health and reducing inequalities in health or access to healthcare. To deal with the social determinants of health, more effort and funding should be focussed earlier in people’s life-course to prevent disease and injury.”