Health policy officials urged to address post-pandemic social issues

Health policy officials urged to address post-pandemic social issues
© iStock/ AJ_Watt

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have urged the UK government to urgently tackle issues and inequalities bought on by the pandemic in London.

A public inquiry into the effects of COVID-19 in the UK was recently launched with a view to advising national planning, political decision-making and health policy. In light of this, researchers from Queen Mary University of London’s School of Geography have launched their own investigation.

The new research follows a recent study published in the Lancet, which found massive global failures in government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. This research made several recommendations on ways to reduce the threat of the likely cold and flu ‘twindemic’ reported in the British Medical Journal.

Mortality rates were higher in deprived areas

The new research analysed findings from 67 in-depth interviews with people who lived in London during the pandemic. The interviewees spanned a wide range of ages, ethnicities, faiths, and migration backgrounds. The participants revealed their personal experiences of the pandemic to the researchers to help them understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and inform health policy recommendations.

The city of London had over 3 million recorded cases of COVID-19 and almost 24,000 deaths. This represented the highest regional mortality rate in the UK. Mortality rates among Black and minority ethnic communities were higher than others. Mortality rates were also higher for those living in areas with higher levels social deprivation.

“Our study highlights many lessons from life in lockdown for local and national leaders and policymakers. Covid-19 hit London particularly hard, and its impact deepened existing issues and inequalities across the city, so long-term change is needed if we are to truly recover from the pandemic,” said principal investigator Professor Alison Blunt from Queen Mary University of London’s Centre for Studies of Home.

Health policy recommendations

Professor Blunt and the researchers identified four key areas that need to be addressed by local and national health policy officials. These were housing, green space, racial tension and community and faith organisations

Some of the researcher’s recommendations are as follows:

  • Making adequate space for home-working and access to green spaces a priority in future housing policies and developments.
  • Including access to green spaces in policies on physical and mental health, neighbourhood cohesion and children’s welfare.
  • Co-ordinating state care and support systems with those provided in the community, communicating and consulting with organisations on-the-ground.
  • Funding those on-the-ground to improve digital tools, translation services and accessibility.
  • Supporting the leaders of community and faith groups, particularly those who work alone.

“The newly launched UK Covid public inquiry is due to look first at planning, preparedness and political decision-making – areas where our research, and wider evidence from the pandemic so far, suggests the government really fell short. Learning from those mistakes is vital, and now is the time to put protective health policy in place that will support long-term pandemic recovery,” said Professor Blunt.


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