The Cost of Health

This World Health Day, we’re looking at why health of the poorest in Greater Manchester, will suffer most from falling living standards.

Each year on 7th April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) celebrates World Health Day. World Health Day draws attention to a particular health concern of people all around the world. 2022’s theme — ‘our planet, our health’, focuses on ‘urgent action needed to keep humans and the planet healthy and foster a movement to create societies focused on well-being’.

The cost-of-living crisis is impacting living standards and health in Greater Manchester.

In March, the Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) released a starkly worrying statistic; a 9% rise in inflation and rapidly increasing energy prices will lead to the biggest fall in living standards since records began.

Manchester and Salford have seen some of the most dramatic effects to living standards and health, due to Covid-19 and related restrictions. Greater Manchester saw 25% more deaths from Covid-19 than the rest of England, and the average life-expectancy fell to lower than the rest of England for both men and women. Deteriorating community and environmental conditions have played a role in the widening equality gap, which directly relates to lower life expectancy.

The link between poverty and poor health, is clear, with the most deprived areas seeing the biggest fall in people’s mental and physical health.

As Greater Manchester faces a cost-of-living crisis, it will be those already suffering from economic hardship, that will feel the hardest hit to their health and well-being.

“We’ve seen the decline in health”

Greater Manchester Charity Mustard Tree works to combat the causes and symptoms of poverty, which can often lead to poor health. The charity helps people to break cycles of poverty, giving access to essentials, like food, clothing, and furniture. Mustard Tree also helps people to rebuild confidence, improve their mental health and work towards employment, through life skills and employability programme The Freedom Project.

Courtney, a Freedom Project Co-ordinator in Eccles and Ancoats, says those living in poverty need help to meet their basic needs, including affording food and accessing healthcare. “People living in poverty often find it very difficult to access healthy food” says Courtney, “and the rising cost of transport is making it even harder for our clients to access health services, that are often far away from their homes”. This is where Mustard Tree’s services, including Food Club, the Community Shop and hardship support, come in. “Without the support of Mustard Tree and other services, many of our clients, would struggle to access the basics”.

The charity also combats social isolation and offers opportunity to improve mental health through creative programmes, including Art and Textiles. The community and social aspect can be just as important as the creative outlet, as the classes help clients to meet new people and talk about their experiences. Mustard Tree Head of Services, Fiona says “When people are waiting to access health services and suffering from social isolation, participating in activities can be just what they need”. Mustard Tree’s Creative Programmes provides a safe environment for clients to try new things, chat, express themselves creatively and improve their confidence. Fiona adds just having someone who can “listen to their concerns”, can be hugely helpful to people facing poverty and ill-health.

Fiona has seen first-hand, how the pandemic has led to worsening health. “We’ve seen the decline in health of people coming into Mustard Tree for support. The closure of so many services during the pandemic, restrictions and long delays for appointments have put a strain on people’s mental and physical health” says Fiona, “we’ve seen clients’ health worsening and more people falling into ill-health, than before”.

“Parents living in poverty, will often neglect their own health needs”

In 2022, more people than ever are relying on Mustard Tree’s services to meet their basic needsWe are seeing more people using our Food Clubs, more people needing hardship support and more demand for our Community Shop.

Donations, like this from Bethell Construction, mean parents don’t have to sacrifice their own health needs, to afford items for their children.

“Parents living in poverty, will often neglect their own health needs to meet the needs of their children” says Courtney, especially around birthdays and holidays, parents “sacrifice their basic needs to afford things like presents”. Through Mustard Tree’s Community Shop, parents on low-income can access seasonal items, like Easter eggs, and things like children’s toys affordably or for free. “Poverty also has a real effect on the lives of children in Manchester — it can affect their education and mental health; it can lead to bullying and social isolation too”.

The added pressure on individuals and families already facing poverty, means many in Greater Manchester are having to make impossible choices, between food, energy and other essentials.

According to think tank The Resolution Foundation, 1.3 million people will be pushed into ‘absolute poverty’ by inflation and the hike in energy prices. This will have a profound effect on many living in Manchester and Salford, who are already feeling their finances squeezed.

Four ways you can help.

1.Setting up a monthly giftGiving monthly is one of the best ways you can help Mustard Tree to provide for people facing poverty and struggling to meet their health needs. Monthly donations help to keep all our services running — Mustard Tree could not do what it does, providing essential services and combating poverty, without our supporters.

2. Donate foodfurniture, and clothingThere has never been a more important time to donate goods to Mustard Tree. As more and more people face poverty, your donations help our clients to meet their basic needs.

3. Volunteer — Offering your time and skills, helps us to deliver our day-to-day services and provide opportunity for people facing poverty. Volunteering makes a tangible difference to the lives of people we support. You can find out more about volunteering with us, by clicking here.

4. Fundraise! — Whether it’s a food collection at work, fundraising with your friends or community group or taking part in one of Mustard Tree’s events like The Charity Abseil, fundraising helps us to meet the rising demand for our services.

To find out more about all the ways you can support us, visit our website.

More about World Health Day, here: https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day

As always, thanks to everyone who has donated, volunteered, fundraised, and advocated for Mustard Tree!