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Addressing health inequalities

Organisations need to tailor services to improve the quality of experience and access of their services to closely meet the needs of groups with additional health and social care needs in order to effectively contribute to the wider action to reduce inequalities.

Providing the best possible environment in the early years and ending cycles of poverty and poor health passed down from parent to child are therefore key factors in addressing the larger inequalities affecting Scottish society. The key points are:

  • Circumstances in the earliest years of life are critical to future health inequalities
  • Action is needed to end the cycle of health inequalities which passes from parent to child
  • A range of services is needed to support and help children and families
  • Groups with additional health and social care needs require particular help

The effectiveness of interventions to address health inequalities in the Early Years: A review of relevant literature (2008) summarises the relevant evidence base and advises professionals of the known effectiveness of specific early years health interventions. The review covers the following areas: pregnancy at a young age; maternal and foetal health during pregnancy; maternal and child nutrition and physical and mental health; child development and early education; parenting in the early years; groups with additional health and social care needs and longer term impacts.

The Dahlgren and Whitehead (1991) model illustrates the layers of influence on health and maps the relationship between the individual, their environment and disease. The model highlights that tackling the consequences of inequalities involves every aspect of public services and rests on the principles of early intervention and prevention.