Multiple long-term conditions

How we’re responding to the cost of living crisis

14 April 2022
4 min read

Our Programme Director for multiple long-term conditions, Barbara Reichwein, talks about the real 'cost of surviving' crisis people are facing and how we're addressing this in our work.

At Impact on Urban Health, we are focused on finding practical solutions to health inequalities. Working across two London boroughs – Lambeth and Southwark – the multiple long term conditions programme looks at how housing, income, and work can contribute to good or poor health.

Throughout 2022, energy bills, food prices, interest rates, national insurance, taxes, petrol costs and rent are all going up. As the UK economy is entering a period of sustained inflation, this prolonged squeeze is taking a high toll.

For those on lower incomes, this goes beyond the idea of a ‘cost-of-living’ crisis, to a crisis in the cost of surviving. It is an ‘I-can’t-pay-my-bills’ crisis, an ‘I-can’t-feed-my-children’ crisis, and it pushes people whose health is already at risk into a situation that is hard to recover from. To protect health, we must first protect the basics of survival.

To improve the systems that create such injustice, we partner with a wide range of community organisations, industry bodies, healthcare providers, and campaigners. Our partners working to support disadvantaged communities are not shielded from the impact of inflation, they too are seeing hikes in utilities, rent, and running costs.

Here is how we are responding:

Now: urgent support for our partner organisations on the front line

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, we supported partners with additional funds to ensure continuity of their operation. We are doing something similar now, tailoring support by need and urgency, responding to the challenge of operating at higher levels of cost and under increased pressure in client-facing services.

Now and for the next few months: focussing on the effects of financial health on multiple long-term conditions

We know that the impact of financial precarity on people’s physical and mental wellbeing is tremendous. Not having money to pay the bills means choosing between heating and eating. Evictions and bankruptcy cause so much stress, they can lead to high blood pressure, and poor sleep– both clinical risk factors for chronic ill-health.

The floodgates are opening for mental health, chronic pain, diabetes, and other conditions to spike.  People already susceptible to chronic health conditions are now risking developing new ones, which means they will spend more years of their lives ill or may die younger.

We are taking a cost-of-living lens in our multiple long-term conditions programme. Our first steps include:

Long-term: setting out a vision for a better future

This crisis is here to stay and for now; it is the ugly ‘new normal’. It requires us to take a hard look at what is most crucial for health. One of the most important things we can do now is to ensure that the most affected communities have control over their futures.

Building power within communities is essential. Local people must lead change and inspire new coalitions to recognise financial precarity as a health issue. Our initial work on this journey includes:

  • Devolving more funding decisions to strengthen local infrastructure, like our work with Black Thrive to support their local fund
  • Working with our partners and stakeholders to record and document the effects of the increased costs on the health of people on low incomes
  • Elevating the voices of people most affected as we did with our work with TSIP during the pandemic

Across all programmes at Impact on Urban Health, which includes our work on children’s physical and mental wellbeing and the health effects of air pollution, we are offering more core funding to our partners and looking at how we can fund more projects that address the most pressing needs.

We are also seeking to form longer-term partnerships to increase our advocacy work and push for policy change to tackle the root causes of health inequalities. Our joint approach must centre the lived experience of those most affected to highlight to government, investors, and industry, the collective moral responsibility to ensure that systemic change creates equal opportunity for people to live healthy lives.

We hope that new partners will join us on this journey, as we navigate how to best support in this new world. Don’t be strangers, please be in touch.