As the new Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, I welcome the early opportunity to set out my vision and ambition for this priority area of public health. My plan sets out a challenging agenda and I relish the opportunity to lead its delivery. With broad consensus in Scotland on the need to act - and to be bold and decisive - I am confident that together with our public, private and third sector partners, we will bring people and communities across Scotland with us.
Looking after ourselves and the next generation is vital to our nation's health and our ability to flourish as individuals.
Yet far too many people in Scotland face serious risks to their health associated with poor diet and unhealthy weight. We have the highest overweight and obesity levels of any UK nation - nor do we compare well with the majority of our counterparts in the developed world.
This situation is unacceptable – not least because it's largely avoidable.
Change is needed.
We won't shirk from this challenge. Scotland has a proud history of taking ambitious and pioneering action on public health. We were the first in the UK to introduce a smoking ban in public places, and we recently became the first country in the world to introduce a minimum unit price on alcohol.
Now it's time for a renewed focus on improving the nation's diet and weight.
The vision is simple: to create a Scotland where everyone eats well, and we all have a healthy weight.
Giving all children the best possible start in life is essential to achieving this. The First Minister recently announced a pledge to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and I'm proud that her ambition sits at the heart of this delivery plan.
But this is also a plan for everyone in Scotland, consistent with our vision for a nation where we can all enjoy our right to the highest attainable standard of health. Many of us need to pay attention to our diet and weight, although it is sobering to see that a far higher proportion of people in our most deprived communities are obese compared to those in more affluent areas. I'm clear that we must do more to support those who need it most, so they feel empowered and enabled to make healthier choices. That's why we will seek to significantly reduce health inequalities, taking a human rights based approach.
Making the improvements we need to see requires decisive action – and a new food culture.
Government alone cannot achieve this. Change happens in our homes and communities, in the places where we eat, live and work, and through the lives we lead. In all these places we must - together - make it easier to eat well and have a healthy weight.
Achieving changes also requires a joined up approach to food, where Scotland continues to grow as a Good Food Nation and where good, affordable, locally sourced food is at the heart of our efforts to ensure everyone in Scotland has a healthy diet. Our commitment to being a Good Food Nation stands to make a very substantial contribution to our ambitions.
With the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA), we have agreed six key public health priorities for Scotland. These priorities recognise the significance of leading healthy lives, and commit to 'a Scotland where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active'. COSLA will be a key partner in the delivery of this plan, and I welcome their endorsement of its direction of travel.
Political consensus is always welcome when tackling important public health issues, and I welcome the cross-party backing from the Scottish Parliament for this plan to be ambitious in its scope. I look forward to the continued support of colleagues as we tackle this public health challenge.
Recognising that some actions can only be taken on a UK-wide level, I want to work constructively with the UK Government and other devolved administrations to ensure we achieve the best possible outcomes for Scotland using all the levers collectively available to us, including the UK actions in the UK Government's recent action plan.
It would be impossible to discuss the nation's diet and weight and not recognise the significance of physical activity. So this document goes hand in hand with A More Active Scotland: Scotland's Physical Activity Delivery Plan, soon to be published, for supporting and enabling the people in Scotland to become more active.
Since launching our consultation in October 2017, there has been significant, positive response to our ambition. I look forward to working with our many partners to implement this plan and achieve our bold vision for a healthier Scotland.
Joe Fitzpatrick MSP
Minister for Public Health, Sport & Wellbeing