Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being. Health Inequality in the United Kingdom

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2017

11 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Content


Overview of Health Inequalities

Upstream Medical Model

Health Status Inequalities in UK

Health Inequity and People with Learning Disabilities



Health inequalities appear to be a global, national and a local issue, which has remained potential challenge health and wellbeing of the global population. It has emerged that there has been significant differences in health status of different social groups among the global populations. Currently, there are several health gaps, which are believed to be the principal determinants of the length and quality of life a given individual enjoys. Healthcare reports indicate that some population groups experience improved lifestyles with proper health status, whereas other social groups experience poor health status, owing to their biological or social status. In a community, whereby significant health status gaps exist, the population is divided into blocks on the basis of health status. Health inequalities can be identified depending on different parameters, especially with regard to health. It is worth noting that, life expectancy in developed countries such as the United Kingdom has increased significantly. As a result, all countries have come to realize that health inequalities are virtually unacceptable (Crombie, Elliott, Irvine & Wallace, 2005). Therefore, this research will give an overview on health inequalities among people with learning disabilities, in the United Kingdom.

Overview of Health Inequalities

In the United Kingdom, a number of health inequalities have been identified and, several approaches have been put in place to address the issue. However, it seems some countries in the United Kingdom have not yet made appropriate advancement towards reducing the current health status gaps among their populations. For instance, in England, most NHS Trusts do not seem to have recorded remarkable progress in addressing health inequalities, especially with regard to people with learning disabilities. Healthcare reports indicate that people with learning disabilities are exposed to enormous health challenges, even though most of these challenges are avoidable. Some of the health status gaps are believed to be caused by the failure of NHS trusts to facilitate timely, appropriate and effective access to healthcare for people with learning disabilities. Therefore; the global community refers this to as a contravention to healthcare regulations. Some of the regulations that aim at improving the health status of people with learning disabilities include the Mental Capacity Act 2005, Health and Social Care Act 2008 and the Equity Act 2010. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also calls for the improvement of the health status of people with learning disabilities (Allerton, Baines, Emerson & Welch, 2012). W.H.O indicates that access to healthcare services by the disabled is relatively low in developed countries like the UK due to mobility and economic reasons, especially those aged between 18 and 49 years.

Reasons for Lack of Healthcare

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Source: WHO, World Report on Disability (2011)

Historically, people with learning disabilities have always been neglected in the society. Some sociologists trace the long history of experiences of the disabled people in the canonical literature; although the issue is not highlighted extensively (Borsay, 2004). In the canonical history, the disabled are portrayed to as helpless; thus, they have to be taken care of by non-disabled individuals who in most cases do not meet their health and social needs.

Invaluable history on disabled is currently available, owing to the extensive studies on the topic. The three principal approaches: biographical, empirical and the materialist approaches have enabled sociologists to investigate the issue from diverse perspectives but, the latter approach proves to be the most suitable in studying the history of the disabled. In practice, the materialist approach is the most convenient because; it exemplifies the aspect of disability within the society from political, cultural and social perspectives (Borsay, 2004).

Concisely, the history of the disabled dates back to the medieval time, in which people with disabilities were discriminated in the society. In Europe, disabled people were regarded to as sinners at times of upheaval, although they received recognition as members of the society.

Upstream Medical Model

In regard to England, the health status of people with learning disabilities is relatively low, although it has the highest incidence of autism. Demographic reports indicate that 1.2 million, in England comprises of people with learning disabilities, and autism is known to cause 20-33 percent of learning disabilities among this population (Allerton, Baines, Emerson & Welch, 2012).

From a medical research perspective, the health inequalities among people with learning disabilities can be explained extensively by the Upstream Medical Model. The Upstream Medical Models focuses on two principal health outcomes: mortality and morbidity, which are determined a number of health factors. Some of these health factors, which are used as the principal parameters in determining one’s health status, are physical environment, clinical care and health behaviours. It also involves social and economic factors as some of the key determinants of the length and quality of life of an individual. In general, people with learning disabilities experience difficulties in accessing quality clinical care, education and employment. They are also exposed to poor environmental quality and, they are not assured community safety. In addition, people with learning disabilities are known to lack proper diet and exercise, which influence their health status significantly (Brower, Egbert & Helmstetter, 2010). It is also worth noting that people with learning disabilities lack adequate family and social support; thus, their mental health is highly compromised. Therefore, the Upstream Medical Model will explain the health inequalities and inequities observed in England effectively.

Health Status Inequalities in UK

Inequalities in health status among the UK population can be explained by the current health status gaps between people with learning disabilities and the normal individuals. Differences in mortality rates, general health status and the incidence rates of diseases between the two social groups provide evidence to health inequalities, in the United Kingdom.

Epidemiological reports reveal that people with learning disabilities experience and increased risk of early death compared to the general population. It has also been found that people with learning disabilities have shorter life expectancy than the general population and, these differences can be attributed to health disparities within the UK population. As a result, mortality rate among people with learning disabilities has always remained relatively high compared to that of the general population.


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Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being. Health Inequality in the United Kingdom
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2017, Social Determinants of Health and Well-Being. Health Inequality in the United Kingdom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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