In Scotland, we can point to good progress in the quality of our health care and in major indications of health outcomes, notably record survival rates from the major "killer diseases" such as cancer, heart disease and strokes. But this progress is not being experienced by everyone yet.
Tackling health inequalities is a matter of social justice. It's unacceptable in 21st century Scotland that some people can expect to die earlier than others, simply due to an accident of birth or circumstances. For that reason alone, the work of the Task Force, as outlined in this report, is worthwhile. Indeed, it is imperative.
But it goes further than that. Reducing health inequalities is vital to achieving the Scottish Government's overall purpose: sustainable economic growth. If Scotland is to live up to its potential in terms of economic success, healthy life expectancy must increase - particularly among those whose lives are currently cut short due to deprivation or other inequalities.
I am delighted to see that the Task Force has brought Government Ministers and local government together, with the NHS, Third Sector and research community, to tackle some of these most stubborn of Scotland's health problems. There has been a great willingness to explore the evidence, think creatively about the action and come up with practical recommendations that all concerned can start to implement now.
The Scottish Government is ready to play our part. I commend this report to every organisation and individual with a contribution to make. We look forward to working with you, towards clear goals and aspirations that will help to make Scotland "Equally Well".
The Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSPMP
First Minister of Scotland