The Health Inequalities theme group met for the first time in May 2017. As with the other theme groups, we have been meeting to try and increase the coherence of our statistical outputs and improve the analytical service we provide to decision makers and other users.
Unlike some of the other theme groups, where it may be straightforward to identify who is working on a particular topic, health inequalities is more cross-cutting so information and analysis can be found in many different places. Therefore, a wide range of producers of health and care statistics should be considering inequalities as an essential part of their outputs. This has made it difficult for some organisations to identify a suitable representative for the group, but we now have a range of members whose roles have a substantial focus on inequalities, and who bring a great deal of knowledge and experience to the group.
We have already met four times, although so far we have only managed to meet once in person. We have representatives from Public Health England, Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), Office for National Statistics, NHS England and NHS Digital. A key part of every meeting has been sharing details of what we are working on and what our plans are. Sharing information is allowing us to identify potential duplication and to consider areas for closer collaboration.
One of the priorities in our action plan is to examine methods and agree a consistent approach as far as possible and appropriate. We had the opportunity to do this at a recent face-to-face meeting where we had time to present and discuss some of the methodology issues which have been a concern across organisations. One of our achievements has been an agreed proposal on reporting inequality trends over time, including how to measure statistical significance, which will be implemented in DHSC’s annual report, to be published during the summer. In terms of collaborative working, we agreed that providing more analysis on ethnic inequalities in health would be our highest priority. One of our biggest gaps in evidence is the lack of any routine reporting on inequalities in mortality or life expectancy between ethnic groups. We are looking now at how data linkage could help fill that gap.
We plan to continue to meet regularly and to consider some issues we’ve not yet had time to discuss, such as possibilities for more coordinated engagement with users of inequality statistics to try and make sure we know what to do to meet their needs.