Health inequalities are a blight on our society. It is unfair that many individuals and families, wherever they live in Scotland, suffer the effects of chronic ill-health and die prematurely.
So far, and despite our best efforts and significant resource, we have not delivered the improvements we had hoped for in reducing the inequalities gap between the richest and poorest in our society. But we are determined to reverse these trends.
Scotland has not always been in this position. It is only in the last few decades that we have seen the health gap widen. Only by better understanding how Scotland has changed over that period - including the impact of deindustrialisation and the importance of social capital - will we make the required improvements. Health inequalities are a consequence of fundamental inequalities in the distribution of power, wealth and income and therefore we need to set our sights on creating a fairer Scotland.
Our national policy on health inequalities - Equally Well - offers us a strong foundation on which to build; but we also recognise that the public service landscape has changed since 2008. Our commitment to the renewal of community planning offers a vehicle to better coordinate resources at a local level, to ensure that these can be targeted at the most disadvantaged communities. The wider process of public service reform and the prospectus laid out by the Christie Commission brings with it a commitment to coproduction, inclusion and the empowerment of citizens in exercising greater control over public services. So while we are not complacent and understand the size of the challenge in front of us, we are confident that we have the building blocks of reform in place, which if progressed vigorously, will gradually turn our record on inequalities around.
Michael Matheson MSP
Minister for Public Health
Councillor Peter Johnston
COSLA Spokesperson on Health and Wellbeing