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A tale of two issues: Reading Inequality and Health Inequality Crisis

Reading Inequality

On the 12th of July 2022, the Dyslexia Commission heard expert testimony from some of the leading thinkers, including Dr Ruth Bromley and Debbie Hicks on the strategies Integrated Care Systems can use to co-ordinate their care. The second topic in the session explored the topic of integrated care systems, the new intermediate tier of the health system in England. This topic in the session revealed two key themes: reading inequality, health inequality for the role of GPs. 

Reading Inequality: A fight for public services  

The second session was kicked off by Debbie Hicks MBE from the Reading Agency. Ms. Hicks discussed the core practices undertaken by The Reading Agency to tackle reading inequalities for young people and adults. These included a national reading for pleasure program delivered at schools through public libraries and colleges.

The Reading Agency’s schemes have been endorsed by NHS England.  Hicks emphasized that the practices undertaken by the Reading Agency focus on evidenced based strategies. These being a focus on producing plans centered from accumulated data on how to increase reading attainment for local communities. As such, no two plans are the same. Specific to people living with dyslexia, Hicks discussed the successful curation of reading lists made for young people living with dyslexia.  

“Co-production is key to ensure that we are making real change” 

Furthermore, Hicks noted that accessibility is not the only focus in The Reading Agency’s practices, Hicks remarked that the success of their strategies pertains to their malleability. They continue to reform and encourage partnered publishers to reflect on the accessibility of books created. 

Hicks referenced a time in which a young person living with dyslexia raised several concerns about the colour background and the font of the book that The Reading Agency featured in their dyslexia reading list. The girl mentioned that she had serious difficulties reading the book due to the colour background. As a result, The Reading Agency acted. They undertook quick and decisive decisions and negotiated with the publishers to make immediate changes. In so doing, Hicks raised a call for literacy organizations to listen to consumers of their work and mold the output of materials for people with additional reading requirements.  

Finally, Hicks raised the need for continuous funding for public services. Hicks mentioned that public services such as libraries can be a key place of support for people, namely children living with dyslexia. Having a librarian and other educational providers in libraries being able to readily assist children with acquiring reading materials will enable providers to develop strategies to overcome reading inequalities.  

In light of this, Hicks emphasized a need for literacy organizations to bridge the gap with clinical providers in order to create a streamlined and accessible developmental approach for people living with dyslexia.  

Health Inequality – The Role of GPs 

For GP and Former Head of Manchester Health &Care Commissioning Dr Ruth Bromley, the message was clear.  It is essential for clinical providers to develop practices around the socio-economic backgrounds of their patients. If this is not undertaken, a serous lacuna in sufficient care will persist for patients. Considering this Dr Bromley stated that in her former role she has attempted to mold an optimal service for neurodivergent patients.  

“1 in 10 children have dyslexia and 30% of those children will have another co-occurring condition. As a GP that resonates into my population, poverty in particular impacts people’s ability to access support” 

In adopting this position, Dr Bromley emphasised that the wider issues around care pathways for people living with dyslexia and other neurodivergences heavily relies on their environmental upbring and socio-economic status. Dr Bromley raised that it was particularly difficult to deliver solutions for patients when other issues were at play, particularly social deprivation. Dr Bromley empathised that when this was: “an overwhelming factor,” it often made the understanding of the condition worse for two reasons.  

Firstly, patients from socio-economically deprived places typically have minimal resources readily available for them to obtain a sufficient diagnosis. Secondly, young patients from households who have experienced difficult interactions with local authorities may not see GPs and other local authorities as institutions they can trust if they need help, namely with their reading attainment and to support their condition.  

Thus, Dr Bromley not only raised a call for better integration between educational providers and health providers. Dr Bromley extended the conversation will a call for increased acknowledgement and curation of clinical and educational provision around combating structural disadvantage which will often exacerbate one’s condition.  

Final Thought

This inquiry session for the Dyslexia Commission demonstrated the importance of such sessions. With experts like Dr Ruth Bromley and Debbie Hicks generating best practices it is essential for there to be a mechanism to spread such best practices to a wider audience who can then implement it centrally.   

An ever-present theme persisted throughout the discussion of integrated care systems, funding. Why? It is clear that without the resources, strategies to integrated care provision amongst educational providers and clinical providers will be short lived. In addition, it was apparent that the impact on poverty on one’s condition and ability to access help cannot be understated. Funding of public services will begin to lay the foundation to increase equality of care for all.  

This equality of care is essential not only as a humanitarian to improve the lives of children, but as how the UK can “level up” and ensure that the maximum number of people can contribute to the economic growth we all benefit from.  

To find out more, visit the commission page or contact Policy and Research Analyst Ann-Marie Debrah at annmarie.debrah@chamberuk.com. 

Photo Credit: Alessandro Patelli

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