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Pfizer Health Index report announced today shows much greater health burden on lower socio-demographic groups

Call for innovative strategies to protect the health of the most vulnerable during the recession

Pfizer Health Index report announced today shows much greater health burden on lower socio-demographic groups

Pfizer Health Index report announced today shows much greater health burden on lower socio-demographic groups

Call for innovative strategies to protect the health of the most vulnerable during the recession

Results of 2010 Pfizer Health Index Report were announced recently at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). The Report shows that 50% of people in the lower socio-demographic group (DE) suffer from a health condition compared with 36% of people in the higher socio-demographic group (ABC1). People from lower socio-demographic groups are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from arthritis, twice as likely to have heart disease and three times more likely to have depression.

Speaking at the announcement of the results, Professor Kevin Balanda, Associate Director, Institute of Public Health said: “These results confirm the large health inequalities that are known to exist across the state. The comparison of 2005 and 2010 results contain signs that the gap in health between the social groups is likely to increase in the coming years if appropriate action is not taken There is a moral imperative to protect those who are most disadvantaged, but there is also an economic one as there are established links between poor health and poor economic performance. It is vital that measures to be introduced in the coming months to deal with the recession are equitable and fair and protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Also emerging as a potential concern is a consistent reduction in the level of recent interaction with medical services. The 2010 results show across the board fall-off, whether in terms of visiting the GP for a check-up (71% in 2010 compared with 75% in 2008) , as a result of feeling unwell (66% in 2010 compared with 73% in 2008), going for a voluntary medical screening (44% in 2010 versus 48% in 2008) and going into hospital for a medical procedure or operation (16% in 2010 versus 19% in 2008). In all of these regards, the C2 socio-demographic group tends to be more absent.

Also speaking at the launch, Norah Gibbons, Director of Advocacy and Central Services at Barnardos said: “We must adopt a more cohesive approach to tackling inequalities in access to health, education and protection services for children living in disadvantage. Too often, health measures and initiatives are not effectively targeted at those who need them most. Poorer health status and outcomes for children and families perpetuates the cycle of disadvantage.”

44% of those surveyed have private health insurance and 36% have a medical card leaving 25% of the population who have neither health insurance nor a medical card. As might be expected, 64% of those in the ABC1 group have private health insurance and the highest level of medical card cover is among the DE group at 56%. The C2 group would appear the most vulnerable in terms of medical cover with over one third (34%) having neither insurance nor medical card.

“As we face into some of the harshest economic times this country has seen in recent decades, we must try and preserve advances made in healthcare provision and access and we must continually innovate to focus our collective efforts on improving the health of those groups who carry a marked burden of health inequality,” said David Gallagher, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland. “The decisions made in these turbulent times will impact our personal and collective health for a lifetime.”

When asked to rate the importance of a series of possible healthcare initiatives, a similar pattern continues to emerge year on year. The provision of more hospitals or hospital beds remains the over-riding medical priority for Irish people. Following on from this, four key issues - more access to non-GP/non-hospital services, better access to GPs, the implementation of screening programmes and the provision of more medical cards - emerge in line with each other in importance. These priorities are followed by reimbursing the cost of medicines, implementing public awareness campaigns and pharmacists dispensing cheaper generic medicines. In terms of ranking, at the bottom of the scale are issues including giving tax incentives to people to be healthier and taxing cigarettes and alcohol more heavily. The lowest ranking priority is taxing food and drink “that people should consume less of”, specifically fatty and fast foods. Professor Balanda said: It is a concern that organised efforts of society to support health promotion, disease prevention and reorientation of the health and social services towards primary and community care are not a greater priority; and will suffer in the recession”.

Social Class Definitions
The market research industry classifies respondents relative to the occupation of the Head of Household. In other words, a working adult, still living in the parental home, will be classified relative to their parents classification.


A These are professional people, very senior managers in business or commerce or top-level civil servants.
B Middle management executives in large organizations, with appropriate qualifications. Principal officers in local government and civil service, top management or owners of small business concerns, education and service establishments.
C1 Junior management, owners of small establishments, and all other non-manual positions.
ABC1's All of the above: approximately 39% of the population. Collectively ABC1’s are referred to as middle class.
C2 All skilled manual workers, and those manual workers with responsibility for other people. C2s are approximately 23% of the population.
D All semi-skilled and unskilled workers, apprentices and trainees to skilled workers.
E All those entirely dependent on the state, long term, through sickness, unemployment, old age or other reasons. Those unemployed for a period exceeding six months, casual workers and those without regular income.
DE's Are approximately 28% of the total population.
C2DE's 51% of the adult population, and referred to in a group, as working class.
F A separate social grade in Ireland, referring to farmers and their dependents. This group has contracted very severely over the past 15 years to about 10% of population, having been over 20% at one stage.


Published: 15th November 2010.

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