Ireland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But beneath this surface lies a startling health inequality. Children born in poverty will die on average 6 years earlier than children born into affluence. It is your social position that will determine the quality of your life and ultimately how long you will live.
The statistics are stark, those living in disadvantaged areas are twice as likely to become obese, twice as likely to experience mental health difficulties, and three times as likely to get cancer. In this powerful documentary, Dr Eva Orsmond immerses herself in communities on both sides of the socio-economic divide to find out why?
As a doctor working in public health, she believes that poor nutrition lies at the heart of this injustice. But, as she discovers, health inequality is far more complex. It starts at birth where babies born to poorer mothers are more likely to have low birth weight meaning they will meet their developmental milestones later. Every aspect of their environment may mitigate against good health outcomes. Many deprived areas don’t even have a supermarket. It’s harder to make healthy food choices when the only readily available food is the local takeaway. She meets Irish health professionals and those directly affected by the fall-out who tell her it’s a ticking time-bomb. From a crippling lack of services and the impact of ever increasing waiting lists, to chronic stress caused by poverty and anti-social behaviour, the reality is grim.
And health inequality is getting worse. As Dr Eva discovers, in the Ireland of 2017, geography is destiny. Children in deprived areas have fewer opportunities and are less likely to stay on in education. This means they are less likely to get well paid jobs that would take them out of their poverty trap, and enable them to make better choices for their health.
This hard-hitting documentary tells an uncomfortable story revealing the shocking loss of life caused by health inequality, the effects of a major socio-economic divide, and the devastating effects of poverty on those caught in it’s grasp.
Dr Eva Orsmond: “I always thought people had the ability to take personal responsibility for their own health, but after filming this documentary I’ve really changed my views. I didn’t think I was easily shocked but some of what I’ve seen in Ireland’s most disadvantaged communities has truly shocked me, I saw poverty that I didn’t think existed in this country. I now understand that tackling health inequality is much more complex than lecturing people about the food on their plate or their health choices. It’s about understanding why people make those choices in the first place.”
Dr Richard Layte, Professor of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin, who conducted the Growing Up in Ireland study which focused on the health of Irish children: “We know that for children from disadvantaged areas, there is an accumulation of risk factors for poor health early on, almost from birth. We have within the Growing Up in Ireland study strong evidence now that even at 3 years of age we see distinct differences in social and emotional development of children. On the physical side those children will be not only shorter but they are also going to be heavier so they have a high risk of overweight and obesity. We know that in some of the more deprived areas you are twice as likely, more than twice as likely to die prematurely before the age of 75.”