A Book About
AWL worked in collaboration with Will Ruff of Ruff Press to create a photography book exploring what Professor Danny Dorling termed 'the scandal of our times' - to which he was referring the biggest gap in life expectancy recorded in Britain since the recession of the 1880s. The gap in question was the 14.4 years difference between the relatively deprived City of Glasgow and the affluent London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The Introduction to the Book
Questioning whether or not telling people to eat well and move more is an effective strategy for promoting health is as basic as it is fundamental. Doing so requires thinking about what health is and what determines whether someone is healthy or unhealthy. It leads to questions about the individual and society.
Health is undoubtedly influenced by the choices that people make on a daily basis. However, we must also consider the circumstances in which these choices are made and the elements of people’s lives that are beyond their control. Social inequalities and environmental conditions significantly impact our health and define the freedom with which we are able to act. Despite this governments regularly frame poor health as a result of bad choices made by irresponsible individuals.
To highlight the devastating impact of inequality and challenge the focus on individual choice we need to see health as a social issue. The importance of doing so has been apparent to me throughout my research career. I have spent a lot of time working in deprived areas and am yet to meet anyone who has been unaware that eating well and being physically active was good for their health. I have however met lots of people who struggle to follow this advice because their capacity to act is severely inhibited by their social circumstances.
The work of Professor Danny Dorling provides irrefutable evidence of health being a social issue and of the detrimental impact that social inequality can have on people’s health and wellbeing. His description of the huge chasm in life expectancy between the affluent Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the relatively deprived Glasgow City as the ‘scandal of our times’ encapsulates the injustice of inequality. It is also a call for change.
This change relies upon people seeing and understanding how social inequality leads to such stark disparities in health.
What Will has done by capturing scenes from the two places that form the poles of the scandal Dorling describes is to illustrate the very different environments that inequality creates. This collection of photographs displays how each place offers very different opportunities to their residents and thus the vastly different contexts in which choices are made. These pictures highlight that people in different places, both socially and geographically, are not presented with the same choices and, therefore, expose the limits of explaining differences in health as primarily being the outcome of individual choices. They help us to see the need for change.
Promoting health as an individual responsibility whilst leaving the roots and repercussions of inequality unaddressed creates conditions ripe for victim blaming. It is also a cowardly attempt by governments to deflect attention away from their failures to address the social factors that lead to poor health. Unemployment, housing, inadequate social support and vast inequalities are all factors that if addressed would improve people’s health. Addressing these social factors is also likely to help people eat well and move more. Reducing inequalities and offering people support relative to their needs would improve the health of everybody. These are the principles of health equity and if we want everybody to have the chance to live a long and healthy life equity is the answer.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Health Equity
A Photo Series from Two Cities
These are the photographs taken by Will Ruff around Glasgow and Kensington & Chelsea.
Prof. Danny Dorling on Health Inequalities
Here are a selection of photographs taken from the 2017 book launch at Magalleria in Bath.
With special thanks to Magalleria for hosting this exhibition in their amazing shop.
A Follow On Book About
Professor Danny Dorling described 'the scandal of our times' in 2013 - the 14.4 years difference between the relatively deprived City of Glasgow and the affluent London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This was four years before the Grenfell Tower fire - one of Britain's worst modern disasters. Perhaps Professor Dorling would not have referred to a return to a Victorian level gap in life expectancy as the scandal of our times if he knew what was coming a few years later or perhaps he sees what happened in Grenfell as an outcome of it. Grenfell is in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and highlights that vast inequalities do not just exist between places but within them. The recklessness with which the lives of those living in the Grenfell Tower were treated can be viewed as a direct outcome of the inequality that defines the disaster and continues to define the pursuit for justice.
Responding to the link between the 'scandal of our times' and the Grenfell Tower fire, AWL again worked in collaboration with Will Ruff of Ruff Press to create a photography book that illustrates a poem. Books were sold to raise money to donate to support the Grenfell community.