October 17, 2022
Jason Strelitz, Director of Public Health in London’s Newham Borough; Cllr Rachel Blake, Local Councilor for Bow East in Tower Hamlets; dr Vanessa Apea, consultant genitourinary and HIV medicine at Barts Health NHS Trust; and dr Megan Clinch, Lecturer in Medicine and Society at Queen Mary, came together to discuss how health inequalities are affecting residents of East London.
Health inequalities are unfair and avoidable health differences within populations and between different groups within society. Health inequalities arise because of the conditions in which we are born, grow up, live, work and age. These conditions affect our opportunities for good health and how we think, feel and act, and this shapes our mental health, physical health and well-being.
While life expectancy is increasing, the length of time people remain in good health is not keeping pace. This is particularly acute for communities experiencing inequalities, such as many of the local University population in East London.
On average, a woman living in Kensington and Chelsea can expect to stay in good health a decade longer than her Newham counterpart. For men living in Hackney, that gap widens to almost 13 years less in good health than their Richmond peers.
The new multidisciplinary research theme Lifelong Health (MDT) within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry aims to promote collaborative research to find solutions to these complex societal challenges.
Queen Mary’s research covers the entire life course from pregnancy to death, with a focus on metabolism, rare diseases, drug discovery and health inequalities. We want to take a biopsychosocial approach and strengthen our existing relationship with Barts Health.
The theme of lifelong health focuses on four priority areas –
- metabolism – Metabolism underlies every biological response, and changes in metabolic function can have a variety of health consequences.
- Rare Diseases – 1 in 17 people will be affected by a rare disease at some point in their lives. Mechanisms for rare diseases can also inform common diseases.
- Drug discovery and therapeutics – This includes the repurposing of existing drugs, the development of new drugs such as senolytics and other therapies such as gene and cell therapies.
- health inequalities – Healthy aging is not universal, and populations affected by inequalities are most likely to spend longer in poor health.
Speaking that day, Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, Deputy Director for Health at Queen Mary University of London said: “As a medical and dental faculty, we have a clear and ambitious mission: We want to achieve better health for everyone through our research and teaching. The impact of our work extends globally, but we have a special commitment to our local community in East London. This focus reflects not only our history, but also the fact that many of our local communities face significant inequalities in health outcomes.
“East London is home to some of the most innovative research and clinical practice in the world. East London Genes and Health is one of the world’s largest community-based genetics studies. Our colleagues – including Professor David van Heel and Dr. Sarah Finer – working to fully sequence the genomes of 100,000 people of South Asian descent, a population at high risk for heart disease and diabetes.”