Recording Patients' Socio-Economic Status Is Necessary For Tackling Health Inequalities

(Tackling health inequalities in primary care)

By way of diminishing health problems through social inequalities, general practitioners in the UK should routinely record socio-economic information about their patients, say researchers in this week's BMJ. Dr Liam Smeeth from the Royal Free and University College London Medical School and Dr Iona Heath from the Royal College of General Practitioners write that eliciting and recording of societal risk factors for poor health will help to identify those patients whose health is at risk from their social status and enable appropriate targeting of preventive healthcare measures.

Diseases have both biological and societal causes and yet medical treatment is focused on the biological factors, say the authors. In the UK, death rates are two to three times higher among people in social class V than among those in social class I. Moreover, they say, the traditional classification of social classes is cumbersome to use, does not always provide a good measure of the socioeconomic factors important to health and may not be appropriate in countries other than the UK.

Smeeth and Heath argue that a more valid and easy to use form of social classification is required and with this tool and the increasing computerisation of practices, the recording of valuable socioeconomic data could be straightforward.

The authors conclude that for general practice to play a part in translating the government's commitment to tackling health inequalities, the recording of accurate and valid socioeconomic information about patients is needed.


Dr Liam Smeeth, Clinical Lecturer, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College London Medical School, London l.smeeth@ucl.ac.uk


Contact: Jill Shepherd
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Page: 1

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