Population Health Improvement and National Conversation – Scene Setter

Over the next three weeks we’ll be exploring our next theme ‘Looking after my health’. Let’s start by setting the scene with some key facts and figures … and some questions to get the conversation started.

  • Our health in Scotland has changed since the NHS was founded in 1948. So has our society.
  • So many things have improved. We live longer. Around 1948, life expectancy in Scotland was 67. Today, it is 79.
  • And our lives are healthier. Twenty years ago, people in Scotland could expect to live to 57 in broadly good health. Today, it is 61.
  • But things have not improved equally for all of us. There are huge differences in how long we live, and how healthy our lives are, especially between our poorest people and our most well off.
  • And these differences – these inequalities – affect and hold back the health and prosperity of all of us. Scotland would be a healthier place if it was a more equal place.
  • There have been other changes – what makes us sick and what ends our lives has changed. Like many other countries, it is chronic disease – like heart disease, cancers, stroke and diabetes – more than infectious disease, that now affects our health and how long we live. Mental health problems are common.
  • And living longer can bring its own challenges. More of us are likely to have more than one health problem at the same time. As we live longer lives, our health needs are more complex.
  • Our health is related to our genetics, our lifestyles, our healthcare and our wider environment. Experts broadly agree our wider environment is particularly important.
  • This environment can be economic – our income and wealth, our jobs and workplaces; social – our family and friends, our communities and networks; and physical – our homes, our towns and cities.
  • Much of the ill health we now experience is related to our diet, our physical activity, to smoking and alcohol use. Our wider environment affects these behaviours. Improving this environment will help us address the causes of the causes of ill health.
  • We increasingly understand that many of the answers to improving our health lie outside our health system. From having the best start in life, to growing, living, working and ageing in a culture that creates and improves health right through our lives, many of the answers are in our daily settings.
  • But it is not just about preventing ill health or avoiding disease. Our daily environments as a population in Scotland – our culture – can create health and improve health.
  • We can take actions today in all these settings that that will create and improve health tomorrow, to help us all lead healthier and happier lives. We can ask ourselves, for example, what does a school that creates health look like? What does a workplace that creates health look like? What does a health creating home look like? And a health creating neighbourhood, community, town, city, etc?

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Healthier Scotland

The Scottish Government is inviting you to have your say on what a healthier Scotland should look like in the next 10 to 15 years.