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Scotland sets out its Public Health priorities

Plans must be backed by action, says BMA

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Scottish government has to today set out its published Public Health Priorities for Scotland.

In a joint document with The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) the priorities set a direction for Scotland’s public services over the next decade, with the aim of organisations and communities working better together to focus on prevention, to reduce health inequality and increase healthy life expectancy.

The priorities recognise that health and wellbeing is created in communities and through partnerships across sectors and that mental health must have parity with physical health, including commitments to enhance suicide prevention.

The announcement of the priorities comes ahead of the publication of Scottish government strategies and action plans covering tobacco, physical activity, diet, substance misuse and alcohol, and the creation of a new public health body in 2019.

Some 54 bodies across Scotland have endorsed the priorities. The priorities reflect a consensus for coordinated action on:

  • healthy places and communities
  • early years
  • mental wellbeing
  • harmful substances
  • poverty and inequality
  • healthy weight and physical activity.
Commenting, Public Health minister Aileen Campbell said: “We want a Scotland where everybody thrives and to be a world leader in improving the public’s health. We’ve made great progress, with people living healthier for longer. But we still face significant challenges with significant and persistent health inequalities, and not everybody enjoys good health.

“As well as improving the quality and length of people’s lives, we also want to reduce the social and economic impact of ill-health and inequality, and help build a nation where people achieve their potential. I am clear that the NHS cannot do this alone; wellbeing is created in wider society, in communities and across our public services, and we need all of these partners to work together.”

Responding to today’s publication of Public Health Priorities for Scotland, Dr Peter Bennie, chair of BMA Scotland, said: “There is no doubt that in Scotland we face substantial public health challenges that both reduce the quality of life of people who live here, and place real challenges and pressure on our public services, not least the NHS.

“As a result, setting out the priorities to tackle these issues is a welcome step which should help focus the efforts of all the different agencies that are working in this area.

“However, to deliver on these priorities, it is vital that professionals working across Public Health and Health Protection are fully involved and the crucial role they can play is recognised. We look forward to working with the Faculty of Public Health, the Scottish government and the new Public Health body to make that happen.

“Equally, priorities are of little use without with bold, concrete and concerted action. Building on innovative policies like Minimum Unit Pricing, the Scottish government and all involved must not take a backward step in introducing policies that will make a real difference to the health of Scotland’s population. While that is not the purpose of this document, forthcoming strategies on things like obesity, to name just one example, simply must deliver clear action on the priorities areas that have now been set out.”

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