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Let's Make Scotland More Active: A strategy for physical activity

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Let's Make Scotland More Active: A strategy for physical activity

1st MinisterFirst Minister's foreword

Physical inactivity is clearly a very common and certain risk to health and wellbeing in Scotland. This results not only in death and disease but also limits the extent to which many people in Scotland can take part fully at school, in work, in their communities and in family life. The evidence, provided by the Physical Activity Task Force, about the scale and consequences of inactivity is a stark warning of the need for further action.

However, the action needed is not something we can deliver overnight. Evidence shows that successful approaches are long term, involve many sectors and agencies, and are best aimed at preventing inactivity. In short, it will take a lot of us, working together over many years, to change the social, cultural, economic and environmental roots of this problem.

The challenge is to provide a combined effort across a wide range of policies - transport, education, social justice, health, housing and economic regeneration. To support this challenge, we have already appointed a National Physical Activity Co-ordinator, started a review of physical education, and committed an extra 20 million over the period 2004-2007 to the development of Active Primary Schools and School Sport Development Officers. We are also aware that there are many good policies and programmes already in place across Scotland that are helping to change the culture of growing inactivity.

But as John Beattie, the Chairman of the Physical Activity Task Force, has reminded us, this is just the start. It will need more action by the government, communities and individuals to make a real difference.

Over the next year 2003-2004, we will produce a series of four implementation plans to clearly set out how we will work together and what we will do to help develop Active Schools, Active Communities, Active Workplaces and Active Homes. These four areas of work will be vital to our overall strategy for improving the health of the people of Scotland. Through this approach we acknowledge that physical activity is not an isolated or insignificant issue in Scotland - it is vital to good health and wellbeing.

The Physical Activity Task Force has presented us with new targets for levels of physical activity to be achieved by the year 2022 and we now approve and support these. They have also mapped out a strategic framework for us based on the best available evidence. This strategic framework has given us a clearer picture of the areas which we now need to prioritise through our implementation plans.

We thank the Physical Activity Task Force for their work over the past 18 months. The quality of their report, its accessibility to a very wide range of stakeholders and partners and the acceptance of the recommendations through the consultation highlights the efforts of the group. We also give special thanks to the commitment of the chairman, John Beattie, who has driven this process forward and challenged us to respond.

We look forward to working with you, the people of Scotland, to meet this challenge.

Signature

Jack McConnell, MSP
First Minister

Chairman's foreword

This foreword is being written, ironically, in very inactive times, when the people of our country would rather drive than walk and when parents are terrified to let their children play in the streets because they are full of cars. Even in sport our rugby team has to be bolstered by overseas players and our Premier League football teams need to import players from all over the world to succeed.

Until I became chair of this Task Force I didn't know what active living really meant and I knew even less about the health risks of being inactive - and I'm a former international rugby player. It wasn't very comforting to find out that I wasn't alone - most Scots are the same.

Many Scots of all ages die before they have to, when they could be enjoying a good life. And getting active can be so easy - walking more, taking the stairs, playing with the kids, digging the garden, washing the car... anything that makes us breathe a little bit harder than usual and makes us feel a bit warmer. It just needs to add up to 30 minutes most days of the week.

But statistics predict that this week in Scotland 42 people will die of heart disease because they're inactive, 42 more will die next week and the week after that, and that will go on until we do something about it. Chances are they didn't know how easy it is, or even if they did, no-one cheered them on and encouraged them when they made an effort. We're also taking it for granted that people have well-lit and safe places to walk and somewhere nice to play with their kids.

In the work of the Task Force we found some great examples of what can be done to change things - but most were small projects running on a shoestring and many had now stopped. We have also learned a huge amount from good research from around the world about what works - but we don't have the political profile or the infrastructure for physical activity to make that a reality here.

It's clear that we in Scotland have not taken physical inactivity as seriously as many other health issues. There are three times as many inactive Scots as there are Scots who are smokers - but we struggle to even get a mention of physical activity in health improvement plans. How can that continue and the health of Scotland be improved?

The Scottish Executive, in its White Paper "Towards A Healthier Scotland", recommended that this Task Force be set up and now we've been given this one chance to make recommendations to deal with this crisis. Our first recommendation is that we must have a permanent, full-time physical activity policy team within the Scottish Executive, with the responsibility of changing and monitoring the activity levels of the Scottish population. Without this ongoing commitment from the centre, the rest of us will always be struggling at the margins to be taken seriously. We could ask people to try harder, we could ask people to do more with less but to be frank, it simply isn't good enough. Without extra support now, could we really say to the families of the 42 that may die every week from now on that we really did our best?

I believe we can create a more active population, with active youngsters and men and women of all ages who can bring massive health and sporting benefits to Scotland.

I am delighted that Scottish ministers have already begun to act on the findings of this report. We now have a national physical activity co-ordinator, a review of physical education is underway and funding has already been announced to take forward the work of Active Primary Schools and School Sport Development Officers. However, I firmly believe that this is just the start. In our culture of growing inactivity there is no room for complacency. I make a plea for continued commitment to leadership from this government and those that may follow over the next 20 years.

I want to thank the members of the Task Force and the project team supporting them for their excellent work.

Yours

Signature

John Beattie