Researchers at Queen Mary College, University of London, have found poverty and ill-health have persisted in the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham for more than 100 years.
The researchers used a colour-coded system to highlight the distribution of cases of type 2 diabetes, which is caused by diet. Analysis showed these areas were associated with poverty. The maps bore close comparison to Charles Booth’s “poverty maps” of the 1880s and 1890s, in which each street was coloured to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants.
The team mapped those they thought were most at risk of type 2 diabetes. Unlike the Booth maps, which were based on observation, this study used the electronic records of more than half a million people taken from GP surgeries in the area.
About 10 per cent of adults are categorised as at a high-risk of developing diabetes, but the map showed “hotspots” with up to 17 per cent of adults in this category. Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked with poverty and South Asian ethnicity, both of which are common in east London.
The study shows that diabetes risk is high where poverty is high. The project aimed to help councils and NHS services to direct health efforts where they are most needed. Some pockets of deprivation and ill-health have persisted for over 100 years.
This study, which concentrated on three of the “Olympic boroughs”, highlights the dire need to improve health and longevity in east London. Shouldn’t this aim be an essential part of the Olympic legacy, or is it merely a case of illustrating that so long as we tolerate the existence of capitalism “the poor will always be with us”, and bread and circuses will come and go? ■