Addressing health inequalities
through partnership working.
The NHS Confederation ICS Network Conference 2022: 'Impactful Integration' highlighted that population health management is a vital component of successful integrated care strategies, by targeting interventions at those groups most at risk and focusing on prevention as well as treatment.1,2
Indeed, the importance of improving population health was emphasised by NICE who made it a core guiding principle.3 Health inequalities stem from variations in the wider determinants of health and access to multiple factors that support health. Consequently, a joined-up, place-based approach with a multitude of stakeholders - with comprehensive data gathering and analysis - is required to address the complexity of health inequalities.4 The King’s Fund defines population health as: An approach aimed at improving the health of an entire population. It includes prevention, delivering appropriate health and care services and action on the wider determinants of health, and requires working with communities and partner agencies.5
Addressing health inequalities through population health is a vital component of successful integrated care strategies.1
This is highlighted in the recent Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme’s Core20PLUS5 approach to tackling healthcare inequalities, including the recently launched approach in young people and children Core20PLUS5(CYP).6,7 Both identify ‘5’ focus clinical areas requiring accelerated improvement. There is a particular recent emphasis on the ‘left behind’ communities who are facing higher levels of health inequalities, which the pandemic has exacerbated.8 ‘Left behind’ neighbourhoods are defined by “a lack of social infrastructure - the structures, organisations and activities that transform a place into a community”.8
Another important aspect of population health is the need to integrate health and care services around the increasing population with long-term conditions.5 This is now reflected in integrated care structures, as is the importance of places and neighbourhood.2,9
The ‘left behind’ communities, who experience higher levels of health inequalities than the general population, are a focus. 8
Improving health inequalities - and subsequent population health - requires a co-ordinated approach. It is complex, but actions can be taken to work with local populations.5 Focus needs to be on the wider determinants of health such as education, housing, transport and leisure, as well as health behaviours and lifestyle, such as smoking cessation and activity levels.10. The NHS Long Term Plan is focused on reducing health inequalities and variation in care. To support this, NHS England will continue to target a higher share of funding towards geographies with high health inequalities than would have been allocated using solely the core needs formulae.
This funding is estimated to be worth over £1 billion by 2023/24.10 Using a co-ordinated approach across health and care partners enables us to understand which factors are driving health inequalities within different population groups, and attempt to tackle the underlying issues.11 There are many examples of areas that have already made a significant stride towards population health improvements and we should all learn from these.11
Integrated care teams can work with multiple organisations to tackle underlying population health issues.11
As we look to the next phase of the pandemic, how can we embrace new ways of working - which were so successful during the pandemic - to help reduce inequalities of health?12 Within England’s new organisational structure which aims to deliver outstanding care, there is no better time to explore how businesses can be an integral part of the solution, working together with the NHS to help improve health inequalities.2,13
It is widely accepted that partnerships between
the NHS and industry could offer advantages
for patient outcomes. In the next article, we
explore how strong partnership working can
support NHS teams.
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PP-PFE-GBR-3863. November 2021