Volume 38 | Number 6p2 | December 2003

Abstract List

Mark Exworthy, David Blane, Michael Marmot


Assess the progress and pitfalls of current United Kingdom (U.K.) policies to reduce health inequalities.


(1) Describe the context enabling health inequalities to get onto the policy agenda in the United Kingdom. (2) Categorize and assess selected current U.K. policies that may affect health inequalities. (3) Apply the “policy windows” model to understand the issues faced in formulating and implementing such policies. (4) Examine the emerging policy challenges in the U.K. and elsewhere.

Data Sources

Official documents, secondary analyses, and interviews with policymakers.

Study Design

Qualitative, policy analysis.

Data Collection

2001–2002. The methods were divided into two stages. The first identified policies which were connected with individual inquiry recommendations. The second involved case‐studies of three policies areas which were thought to be crucial in tackling health inequalities. Both stages involved interviews with policy‐makers and documentary analysis.

Principal Findings

(1) The current U.K. government stated a commitment to reducing health inequalities. (2) The government has begun to implement policies that address the wider determinants. (3) Some progress is evident but many indicators remain stubborn. (4) Difficulties remain in terms of coordinating policies across government and measuring progress. (5) The “policy windows” model explains the limited extent of progress and highlights current and possible future pitfalls. (6) The U.K.'s experience has lessons for other governments involved in tackling health inequalities.


Health inequalities are on the agenda of U.K. government policy and steps have been made to address them. There are some signs of progress but much remains to be done including overcoming some of the perverse incentives at the national level, improving joint working, ensuring appropriate measures of performance/progress, and improving monitoring arrangements. A conceptual policy model aids understanding and points to ways of sustaining and extending the recent progress and overcoming pitfalls.