Health and Wellbeing Alliance roundup: Tackling health inequalities

At the last working day of the Health and Wellbeing Alliance we heard from voluntary sector representatives and colleagues from Public Health England about the work they are doing to tackle health inequalities. This recognises that the voluntary sector is often uniquely placed to amplify the voices of disadvantaged or marginalised communities, as well as respond with tailored support.

A new strategy for public health

Public Health England spoke to us about their five-year strategy (2020-25), which includes priorities such as clean air and healthier diets.

They are working on making the case for critical action to address poor air quality by building the evidence base, especially considering the impact on mental health as well as people from certain communities or equalities groups. In addition, they are exploring how to improve dietary health for particular groups and populations, considering the role of planning authorities as well as institutions such as prisons and schools. This discussion follows the publication of guidelines to support local action on health inequalities by Public Health England in the summer. These guidelines aim to reinforce a common understanding of health inequalities and provide a practical framework and tools for places to reduce them.

Alliance members from the voluntary sector welcomed constructive discussion with policy leads and the commitment to address health inequalities but emphasised the need for any strategies to balance individual action with wider system and policy change. Members highlighted the lack of choice often available to people from marginalised groups in terms of where they live, their diet, and mode of transport.

The voluntary sector tackling inequalities

Members of the Alliance represent marginalised communities when responding to key policy developments including the CQC’s State of Care report, the prevention green paper and the review of the Mental Capacity Act code of practice.

In previous years Alliance members have worked on a range of projects: from guidance on how to deliver palliative and end of life care for Gypsies and Travellers, LGBT people and people experiencing homelessness, to exploring dementia in black Asian and minority ethnic communities. Members continue to develop resources to support the wider sector to tackle health inequalities.

  • A subgroup of the Alliance has developed an audit tool to help organisations improve the way they work with inclusion health groups. Upon completion of the audit tool, you are provided with a unique and tailored guide which will help them to embed action on tackling health inequalities into their everyday activities.
  • The Alliance is also working with NHS England and Improvement to develop a menu of evidence-based interventions to tackle health inequalities.
  • Organisations led by disabled people and service users have produced guidelines to help organisations coproduce (work in equal partnership) with people who use services, and have since launched a mentoring project to support coproduction work.

NCVO’s work

We are running three webinars for the wider voluntary sector to support two-way learning between the voluntary sector and key policy leads from the wider health and care system.

We will hold a third webinar on social prescribing and inclusion in January 2020. Please keep an eye on our events listing page for further details and links to register.

NCVO has also started working on a project to explore the relationship between groups experiencing health inequalities and volunteering, in particular understanding the barriers to people from those groups to volunteering in the health system.

If you would like to speak more about our work on the Health and Wellbeing Alliance please contact me on


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Rebecca Young is a senior policy officer at NCVO, working primarily on public services and volunteering policy. Before joining NCVO, Rebecca led on mental health, housing and disability policy at the National Union of Students.

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