In May 2023, the Royal Society for Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, Association of Directors of Public Health, and the Royal Society of Medicine came together to discuss the impact that poverty continues to have on public health and the solutions needed at the local and national level. Based on discussions on the day, we have produced a joint statement which sets out the importance of tackling poverty in order to improve the health of the public.

We are committed to working together in this important area and tackling inequalities is a key part of RSPH’s strategy and will be a key focus of our work.

Public health and poverty statement

Poverty is a long-standing problem in the UK and its impact on health outcomes is stark.

It is clear that the economic and social circumstances we live in have a greater influence on our health than any other factor. Rising poverty levels and widening health inequalities – exacerbated by the current financial crisis - have severe consequences for individuals and communities, the NHS, social care, and for the economy. There is now a 27-year life-expectancy divide in men, and a 21-year difference for women, between the least and most deprived areas of the country, and the stark difference in health outcomes between ethnic groups remains.

As the collective voice representing public health, we strongly believe there should be a focus on lifting people out of poverty and supporting them to lead healthier lives, but crucially also action to ensure children are not born into poverty.  Long-term bedrock policy solutions from UK governments are needed to ensure people are well enough to work, financially secure, live in good quality housing and have access to services including childcare and public transport, so they flourish and not just survive.

Those working in public health are doing the best they can with ever-dwindling budgets, but they cannot solve this alone. Collective action is needed from national governments, alongside businesses, NHS, charities, and local councils. A strong public health approach will ensure we are a fair, healthy, greener, and prosperous nation.

Read RSPH's report "Our health: the price we will pay for the cost-of-living crisis" setting out the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis and the collective response needed, including support from the government.