Scotland's public health priorities

Report on Scotland's six public health priorities.

01 Foreword

Photo of Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Public Health, The Scottish Government

Aileen Campbell MSP

Photo of Councillor Peter Johnston, Health and Wellbeing Spokesperson, COSLA

Councillor Peter Johnston

In a vibrant, modern Scotland it should be possible for everyone to be as healthy as they can be. It should be the case that the social, economic and physical environments we live in help create health and wellbeing, and that local communities and public services make it possible for individuals to take positive decisions about their own health and feel supported to do so.

Unfortunately, for too many people in Scotland and in too many places, this is not the case. As a nation, our overall health is unacceptably poor in comparison to other Western European countries, and many people living in our most deprived communities still experience poorer health than those living in our wealthier areas.

Life expectancy in Scotland is a success story because we are living longer than ever before. But life expectancy, and our healthy life expectancy – the years we live in good health – varies significantly across Scotland. This variation has a huge impact on individuals, on communities and on Scotland as a whole. This variation is unacceptable.

We want Scotland to be a place where everybody thrives. We want to reset how Scotland thinks about wellbeing and health. Wellbeing cannot be created and sustained by the NHS alone.

High quality and equitable healthcare and health protection services are vital in improving and maintaining health, addressing health inequalities and protecting us from communicable and environmental threats. But it’s not primarily in our hospitals or our GP surgeries that health is first created. It is in our homes and our communities, in the places we live and through the lives we lead. These are the places where we must work to make it easier for people to be healthy, and the efforts of society as a whole must increasingly turn towards supporting this sort of ‘wellbeing creation’.

These public health priorities represent an important milestone. They represent agreement between the Scottish Government and Local Government about the importance of focusing our efforts to improve the health of the population. The priorities connect strongly to, and will help accelerate, our wider work and include local strategic planning and partnership activity; the refreshed National Performance Framework and related National Outcomes; our Digital Health and Care Strategy, and forthcoming public health policies to be published in the coming weeks and months, and our efforts towards sustainable economic growth. This document also sets out how we will work together and with other parts of the system to achieve this change (our reform principles).

And these priorities are not just for our public health professionals. This document is intended to be a foundation for the whole system, for public services, third sector, community organisations and others, to work better together to improve Scotland’s health, and to empower people and communities. It is a starting point for new preventative approaches, and a new awareness around wellbeing, that will develop and strengthen in the coming years.

Over the last year, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) have engaged widely to develop and agree these priorities. The six priorities presented here reflect a consensus on the most important things Scotland as a whole must focus on over the next decade if we are to improve the health of the population. They will require action by national and local government, and we are building consensus and partnerships across the system to make progress. We will work closely with the NHS, integration authorities, community planning partnerships, the third and independent sectors, and with community voices. And we will look for opportunities to work with private organisations in the pursuit of improving population health where it is appropriate and possible to do so.

Our ultimate aim is to improve the health of the population and to reduce the unacceptable variation in life expectancy that exists across Scotland. Tackling the health inequalities that prevent good health runs through all that we do, and this is reflected in our reform principles. In taking that work forward we are committed to a shared vision for a modern, inclusive Scotland where everyone is able to live with human dignity.

We will ensure our approach to improving the health of the population is fully consistent with Scotland’s commitment to equality and human rights, including the duty we have to meet international obligations and to work in ways that eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

Working together, we will make our public services more sustainable. We will embrace new and innovative technologies and approaches to provide people with the means to drive change in their communities and to make more informed decisions about their health and healthcare.

This is only the first step of our partnership of reform to improve the public’s health. We have started work to develop a new national public health body for Scotland, which will provide support for delivery of change at national and local level. And we will be working to develop stronger support for partnerships who are collaborating with communities locally to support communities locally to create wellbeing.

None of this will be easy and the challenge is considerable. But our partnership presents a real opportunity to create long-lasting and sustained improvements in the health and wellbeing of our communities.

We thank all those organisations who have agreed to contribute their support and we look forward to working together with them in the shared interests of the people of Scotland. Over the coming months, we hope many more partners will join us so, that together, we can enable a new coalition for the public’s health in Scotland.

Aileen Campbell MSP,
Minister for Public Health,
The Scottish Government

Councillor Peter Johnston,
Health and Wellbeing Spokesperson,


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