The Scottish Government’s Creating a Fairer Scotland and Creating a Healthier Scotland national conversations resonate with our corporate strategy A Fairer Healthier Scotland.
We wish to see a Scotland in which all of our people and communities have a fairer share of the opportunities, resources and the confidence to live longer, healthier lives.
Discussions often focus on the negative impact of inequality on economic growth, and for good reason.
What tends to get less airtime and column inches is that inequality is bad for our health.
Our health enables us to live a fulfilling life and be active members of society, it’s crucial to our individual wellbeing and to our contribution to society as a whole.
Fairer societies have been found to do better across a range of health and social outcomes including violence and homicide, teenage pregnancy and drug use.
Unhealthy behaviours that damage health are present in all population groups – however, some groups and communities experience factors and circumstances that harm their health which are largely beyond their control.
The physical and social environment in which they live, learn and work.
Sadly, there is clear evidence that health-harming factors are distributed unequally across our society. Needless to say, those with the greater share of income, power and wealth are more able to change or improve [or even remove] health damaging factors.
So what do you do if you have a:
– low income?
– no access to other sources of income?
– live in a house that is of poor quality and costs too much to heat?
Layers of action
Improving the health of the population in an equitable way requires action across a range of public policy areas. For example, policies to tackle economic and social inequalities should happen alongside and at the same time as action to address the behavioural determinants of poor health.
The focus needs to shift away from meeting the cost of dealing with fall-out due to health or social problems towards prevention and early intervention.
The focus needs to shift away from considering the problem as a responsibility to the specific individual, community or government towards the idea that this is everyone’s responsibility. In the end, we are all affected and we all pay the cost.
To create a fairer Scotland all of us need to strive towards action, to drive a fairer share of income, resources and power.
We need to ensure fair and equitable access to high quality housing, education, health and other public services, and we need to ensure all public services are planned and delivered in proportion to need.
The message is clear A Fairer Scotland will be a Healthier Scotland.
Gerry McLaughlin (Chief Executive, NHS Health Scotland)
Website, NHS Health Scotland’s strategy 2012-2017
This strategy sets out the role, direction and priorities of NHS Health Scotland for the next five years – as we progress towards ‘A Fairer Healthier Scotland’.