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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Ethnic health inequalities revealed
Smoker
Smoking is high among some ethnic groups
A major government survey has found high rates of disease among people from ethnic minority groups.

Ministers have responded by pledging to reduce high rates of smoking among ethnic groups - a factor they see as key to the problem.


It is completely unacceptable that in modern Britain your chance of a healthy life depends on your ethnic background and your income

Yvette Cooper, Public Health Minister

The Health Survey for England found smoking rates among Bangladeshi men are nearly twice as high than in the general population and are also higher among Irish and Black Caribbean men.

Public Health Minister Yvette Cooper announced on Tuesday that 1m would be made available to fund anti-smoking initiatives aimed at ethnic communities.

Ms Cooper said: "It is completely unacceptable that in modern Britain your chance of a healthy life depends on your ethnic background and your income."

The health survey also found that the rate of heart disease among certain ethnic groups is considerably higher than average.

Higher rates of diabetes were reported in all ethnic groups.
Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper announced 1m to cut smoking
Ms Cooper said she had asked all health authorities to draw up Health Improvement Programmes which will address inequalities.

"I have also asked the new Health Development Agency to look at ethnic minority health as a priority area in its first year.

"We need greater focus on the health needs and concerns of ethnic minority communities - both in terms of prevention and treatment if we are tackle these inequalities."

Ms Cooper said tackling health inequalities would mean also tackling poverty and unemployment.

Amanda Sandford, of the anti-smoking charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: "Smoking is one of the principal causes of differences in mortality rates between the more advantaged and those who are less advantaged."

Among other key findings of the survey were:

  • higher rates of ischaemic heart disease (angina and heart attack) among Indian, Bangladeshi and Irish men
  • higher rates of stroke in Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Indian men
  • higher rates of IHD among Irish women
  • Irish men and Black Caribbean and Pakistani women were more likely to be obese

All minority ethnic groups consumed less alcohol than the general population except for Irish men.

A spokeswoman for the Commission for Racial Equality said: "We welcome the attention the health minister is giving to the health needs of ethnic minority communities.

"However, a lot more needs to be done. This one example of good practice on smoking needs to be emulated across all the specific health issues facing ethnic communities in the UK."

The 1999 Health Survey for England interviewed over 5,000 adults and 3,000 children from Black Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese and Irish communities.

The preliminary results are based on the analysis of over 4,000 interviews.

See also:

01 Jun 00 | Health
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