We are the UK Government’s independent adviser on sustainable development. Through advocacy, advice and
appraisal, we help put sustainable development at the heart of Government policy


Sustainable development: The key to tackling health inequalities

Classification:Health, Housing and Regeneration, Sustainable Communities
Document type:SDC Reports & Papers
Download:health_inequalities.pdf - 2389 KB
Summary:imageDespite significant improvements in health over the past 150 years, the UK still suffers from huge health inequalities resulting from other forms of inequity and unfairness within our society. The SDC believes that by taking proper account of the wider causes of illness, we can promote good health across all socio-economic groups, and at the same time create a better environment for ourselves and for future generations.

In November 2008, Professor Sir Michael Marmot was asked to advise the Secretary of State for Health on the future development of a health inequalities strategy in England post-2010. The review, which featured significant contribution from the SDC, was published on 11 February 2010 under the title Fair Society, Healthy Lives (2010) The Marmot Review.

The SDC’s contribution to the Marmot Review is this report.

The SDC contributed to two task groups within the Marmot Review:

• sustainable development
• the built environment.

The links between sustainable development and health are many and varied, but due to time and resource constraints, the report focuses on four main areas where the evidence was particularly strong:

• food
• transport
• green space
• the built environment.

Other organisations which contributed to the initial working groups are:

• Department of Health
• New Economics Foundation
• London School of Economics
• University College London
• London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
• Food Climate Research Network, University of Surrey
• Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
• Forum for the Future

This report is aimed primarily at policy-makers and practitioners in central and local government, and the NHS. Whether or not the words 'health' or 'sustainable development' are in their job title, we want everyone to think about how their work can reduce health inequalities and promote sustainable development.

Key findings

• Climate change resulting from carbon and greenhouse gas emissions poses potentially catastrophic risks to human health and threatens to widen health inequalities between rich and poor populations in the UK

• Despite contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions, low-income groups will suffer greater exposure to extreme weather risks, flooding and homelessness, whilst lacking insurance and other material resources to cope with the effects of climate change

• Promoting measures such as active travel, green spaces and healthy eating will yield co-benefits for both health and carbon emissions

• Opportunities for healthy, low-carbon living should be distributed in ways that favour people with low incomes and so help to reduce their vulnerability to ill-health.


• Preventative public health to be a shared responsibility between a range of different sectors and services: education, employment, planning, housing, benefits, transport, sport and leisure, and environment

• Public funds to be invested in measures promoting active travel, using green spaces, healthy eating and improving domestic energy efficiency

• Further work should be undertaken on carbon rationing and trading schemes to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint fairly

• Economic, environmental and social policies to be co-ordinated and framed by government so as to create a basis for strong local partnerships between the NHS and regional development agencies, local and regional government and social care.

» Datblygu cynaliadwy: yr allwedd i fynd i’r afael ag anghydraddoldebau iechyd (Welsh language version)

Tell a friend | Write a review | See all reviews >