Health report finds poverty and deprivation key in inequalities

Rachel Flowers, Croydon’s director of public health, has highlighted local health inequalities and made raft of recommendations to “narrow the gap” to improve residents’ health at every life stage.

Flowers’ report is the first for three years that has not been dominated by covid and its demands on our public health services.

But the report finds that the pandemic, together with the cost of living crisis, has widened already existing health inequalities through factors such as missed schooling, increased food insecurity – put simply, whether people are able to afford to eat – and poorer mental health, including for front-line health workers themselves.

As a borough, Croydon has widespread areas of significant social deprivation, with large parts among the country’s 20per cent most deprived areas. Some smaller areas, mainly around Thornton Heath, have been measured as being in the 5per cent most deprived areas of the whole country.

Flowers’ report finds several troubling statistics which impact the borough’s diverse population, including that black women are on average four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white neighbours.

Homelessness, and the high number of children forced to live in temporary accommodation in Croydon, whether as asylum seekers or because of other housing issues, brings with it damaging health implications that can stay with individuals throughout their life.

According to the report, “Homeless children, particularly those under five years old, are more vulnerable to common childhood illnesses, missing key developmental milestones, and behavioural and emotional difficulties.”

In March 2022, there were 1,988 households in Croydon in temporary accommodation; 1,423 of the households had dependent children; 2,710 of Croydon’s children were living in temporary accommodation.

Deprivation: the director of health’s annual report highlights the relative poverty that is encountered right across Croydon

Flowers sets out how the council, its partners and communities need to tackle health inequalities, through measures such as improved mental health support for pregnant women and a new trauma-informed training programme.

Recommendations for action include:

  • Helping all parents to access antenatal care early on in their pregnancy
  • Boosting breastfeeding support and promoting healthy eating for young children
  • Tackling unconscious bias and discrimination
  • Co-producing a plan with Croydon’s youth council to address inequalities
  • Working with partner agencies to tackle drug and alcohol misuse, and domestic violence
  • Supporting adults with mental health through successful initiatives like the Mental Health First Aiders
  • Combating loneliness and social isolation among older people.

“In highlighting the health inequalities that exist in our borough, my intention is to inspire us all to take collective action to make Croydon a fairer place – as a partnership and as individuals,” Flowers said.

Detailed report: Rachel Flowers

“We need to build on some of the very good work already being done in Croydon’s communities, with the council and partners working at a strategic level and all of us doing what we can to help.

“There are little things we can all do, from encouraging a pregnant friend to take up all the help and support available; to becoming a Mental Health First Aider – or even just knocking on the neighbours’ door to check they are ok.

“This year my report is a call to action for all of us – together we can and will make a difference.”

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6 Responses to Health report finds poverty and deprivation key in inequalities

  1. The absence of any mention of libraries is disappointing. They are free, calm, warm and welcoming spaces that can do much to alleviate the problems identified in the report.

  2. Sarah Bird says:

    Words fail me. And this is, after 3 years and several independent reports into the council , which all state ineptitude and bullying etc. The inequality in health care in Croydon was raised years ago. Exactly what steps have been taken to remedy it? A good start ,for the very well paid directors and its officers would be to comply with the law and the act upon the findings in the independent reports which impact on residents lives. Yet to see any equality.

    • It could be noted that the foreword to the report by Rachel Flowers is preceded by a foreword from Mayor Jason Perry… the same Mayor Perry who is cutting several services which set out to reduce such health inequalities.

      Watch out for those children’s centres!

      • Well I called my Mayor and he said quote
        “I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote”
        Sometimes I wonder what I’m gonna do
        ‘Cause there ain’t no cure for the wintertime blues

  3. Keith Ebbers says:

    Do we really need a report to tell us that poverty and deprivation are a problem?!

    • Context is all, Keith.

      The director of public health is required to deliver an annual report, so she has no choice about the matter.

      And this report is coming from a local authority which, over the next couple of months, will proceed to cut funding and support for many of the services and agencies that are in place to address the inequalities identified in Flowers’ report.

      Always good to have that kind of thing on the record, just to remind the Mayor that he endorsed this report, the next time he closes children’s centres or sells off public libraries.

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