Tory austerity is responsible for more than 130,000 deaths in the last seven years, according to new research out this week.
Those deaths could have been prevented if Tory governments had not slashed the public health budget.
Public health policy aims to prevent illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer or liver disease by targeting poor diets, smoking or other harmful habits.
These particularly affect many working class and poor people whose lives are shaped by poverty.
Dean Hochlaf is a lead researcher for the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank which conducted the study.
He said, “We have seen progress in reducing preventable diseases flatline since 2012.
“At the same time, local authorities have seen significant cuts to their public health budgets, which has severely impacted the capacity of preventative services.
“Social conditions for many have failed to improve since the economic crisis, creating a perfect storm that encourages harmful health behaviours.
“This health challenge will only continue to worsen.”
Tory health secretary Matt Hancock claimed that the government would focus on prevention last November.
This was part of an attempt supposedly to reduce pressure on the health service without dealing with the cuts, privatisation, poor pay and rocketing workloads driving the NHS crisis.
But the Tory approach to public health is underpinned by penalising working class people for making “lifestyle choices”.
At the time their policies drive down living standards and cut the public services that could help people to live longer.
For instance, the research said that funding for physical education—supposedly coming from the “sugar tax” on soft drinks—“was reduced in 2017 from £415 million to £100 million”.
That’s because the sugar tax money went to “to part fund an increase in the core school budget” which has been hit by other Tory cuts. The IPPR found that an “estimated two in five of health visitors reported caseloads in excess of 400 children”.
That’s well above the recommended level of 250 per visitor needed to deliver a safe service. Growing inequality underpins the health crisis.
It’s no coincidence that life expectancy is falling in more deprived areas of England, as shown by Office for National Statistics figures from March,
Women in the most deprived areas can expect to live for 79 years while women in the least deprived areas for 86 years. Men in poorer areas can expect to live for 74 years compared to 83 years in affluent ones.
There has to be a bigger fightback to get rid of the Tory regime of austerity so that working class people can lead healthier, longer lives.