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cost of living crisis

Researchers call for action to address health inequalities in light of cost of living crisis

Health experts from three universities have said that the cost of living crisis, will disproportionately affect the health of the most vulnerable people in Ireland.

HEALTH EXPERTS HAVE urged policymakers to “redouble their efforts” to address health inequalities in Ireland in light of the current cost of living crisis.

CSO figures from 2019 indicate that people living in the wealthiest of Ireland live five years longer than those in more deprived areas.

Researchers in RCSI, Queen’s University Belfast and Trinity College have said that the cost of living crisis, as well as the climate crisis, will disproportionately affect the health of the most vulnerable people in Ireland.

Health inequality has become a greater cause for concern among experts over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Debbi Stanistreet of RCSI’s School of Population Health said in a press statement that there is a well-established link between poverty and ill health.

The most significant factors affecting health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. These conditions are known as the social determinants of health.

“Academics and policymakers need to redouble their efforts to understand and address the pathways through which these social determinants impact on the most vulnerable in our society,” Stanistreet said

She added that both the climate emergency will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, and further exacerbate existing health inequalities.

According to Focus Ireland, the number of homeless children increased by 38% between July 2021 and April 2022.

Professor Richard Layte, a professor of sociology in Trinity College, said: “There is a large body of evidence demonstrating that early life disadvantage can influence health trajectory later in life.

He said that a child’s early years were a “critical period” which shaped later health risks, as well as educational and occupational outcomes.

Professor Diarmuid O’Donovan, a researcher in the School of Medicine in Queen’s, said health inequalities need to be addressed across all government sectors, and should not be considered the responsibility solely of the health sector.

“All health and social policies should be considered in light of the impact they will have on inequality. We need to consider ‘What impact will this have on the most disadvantaged in the population and will it reduce health inequalities locally?’.”

The three researchers are organisers of a workshop aimed at strengthening the evidence base for reducing health inequalities in Ireland and identifying possible interventions to address health inequity, which is taking place today.

The government has resisted calls to take action on spiralling prices ahead of the budget in October.

Speaking yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin again dampened down suggestions of measures to address the crisis before the budget is announced.

He said the immediate priority of this year’s budget will be the cost of living, adding that the government cannot run the risk of “chasing inflation”.

“We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the 1970s,” he added.

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