Cabinet urged to put health first to tackle inequality

Wealthier people in the Netherlands enjoy 24 more years of good health on average. Photo:

Ministers have been urged to prioritise better public health in all areas of policy making, from education to housing, in order to tackle inequality.

The Social-Economic Council (SER) has called for an “integrated, cross-disciplinary approach” to improve people’s health by securing better living and working conditions.

In a report to the outgoing cabinet with the title “Growing up, living and working healthily”, the SER pointed out that the richest 20% of people in the Netherlands live eight years longer and enjoy 24 years more of good health than the poorest 20%.

“There is a collective responsibility for this, where government policy is currently mainly based on the individual responsibility of citizens,” the report said.

Securing well-paid work and a basic standard of living, backed up by a social security safety net and a healthier environment, has knock-on benefits on people’s health by encouraging them to make better lifestyle choices, the authors wrote.

“Health problems are often the consequence of an accumulation of problems throughout a person’s lifespan. Children who grow up in poverty exercise less and eat less healthy food.

“These causes have a direct effect on children’s performance in school and thereby their opportunities later in life.”

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