A report showing cancer death rates are up to three times higher in poorer areas will be part of the Irish Cancer Society’s (ICS) armoury to tackle social health divides.
The ICS discovered shocking health gaps within areas of Dublin and Cork in particular, with those residing in poorer areas twice as likely to die from cancer.
A map on cancer death rates, published yesterday, shows that poorer areas of Cork and Dublin, in particular, have noticeably higher rates.
Compiled by the Centre for Health Geoinformatics at NUI Maynooth, it shows people living in deprived areas had a noticeably higher risk of dying from cancer than those in more affluent parts.
The ICS chose Dublin to highlight what it described as “shocking” health gaps but pointed out that similar trends were found throughout the country.
Cancer death rates in Dublin during 2009 and 2011 varied from 381 people per 100,000 in Blakestown to 128 in per 100,000 in Castleknock.
Director of the centre, Dr Jan Rigby said the worst health outcomes for all diseases were found in Dublin and Cork. Dr Rigby said the highest rates in Cork were in the north and north-west of the city.
“A colleague who is from Cork looked at the figures and said they were no great surprise.” she said.
The ICS head of advocacy and communications, Kathleen O’Meara said it was unacceptable that a person’s chance of living a long and healthy life depended on where they lived.
“Despite the strides made in cancer diagnosis and treatment in the last few decades, Ireland has become a very unequal society when it comes to health problems, particularly cancer and access to healthcare.
“If we are serious about reducing the cancer rate, we need to tackle this worrying divide. It is a challenge facing all of us — the policy makers, healthcare providers and the ICS. We must work now to begin to close this gap.”
The ICS is beginning a campaign to ensure the link between health inequalities and cancer is recognised in a new 10-year national cancer strategy which will be published in 2016, as well as actions recommended to address it.
Ms O’Meara said the society believed the next stage in the fight against cancer should be prevention and early detection of cancer.
“People living in deprived areas cannot be left behind in the battle against cancer.”
The Anti-Austerity Alliance said the “cancer gap” epitomised wealth inequality and a two-tier health system. Dublin West TD Ruth Coppinger said the new study used her constituency as an example and called on Health Minister Leo Varadkar to urgently state what he was going to do about the outrage.
“What this reveals is that in ‘Recovery Ireland’ the old adage has been turned on its head — now your wealth is your health,” said Ms Coppinger.
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