Doctors leaders in Scotland have called for bold, concrete and concerted action to improve public health.
BMA Scottish council chair Peter Bennie said that the Scottish Government should not be afraid to build on the success of pioneering public health initiatives such as MUP (minimum unit pricing) of alcohol.
Speaking as the Scottish Government published its public health priorities, Dr Bennie said it was vital that doctors working across public health healthcare and health protection were fully involved and supported in efforts to improve the health of the nation.
The priorities, published jointly with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, aim to focus action across the public sector, voluntary sector and communities.
They set a direction for public services over the next decade with the aim of organisations and communities working together better to focus on prevention, reduce health inequalities and increase healthy life expectancy.
Specific areas in the document include healthy places and communities, early years, mental well-being, harmful substances, poverty and inequality and healthy weight and physical activity.
Dr Bennie said setting out the priorities was a welcome step that should help focus the efforts of different agencies.
‘However, to deliver on these priorities, it is vital that professionals working across public health and health protection are fully involved and the crucial role they can play is recognised,’ he said.
‘Equally, priorities are of little use without with bold, concrete and concerted action. Building on innovative policies like MUP, the Scottish Government and all involved must not take a backward step in introducing policies that will make a real difference to the health of Scotland’s population. While that is not the purpose of this document, forthcoming strategies on things like obesity, to name just one example, simply must deliver clear action on the priorities areas that have now been set out.’
The announcement of the priorities comes ahead of the publication of Scottish Government strategies and action plans covering tobacco, physical activity, diet, substance misuse and alcohol, and the creation of a new public health body in 2019.
Public health minister Aileen Campbell said the Scottish Government wanted to improve the quality and length of people’s lives and reduce the social and economic impact of ill-health and inequality.
‘I am clear that the NHS cannot do this alone; well-being is created in wider society, in communities and across our public services, and we need all of these partners to work together.’
Derek Bell, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, also welcomed the publication, but warned that public health challenges were ‘complicated’.
‘To improve public health across the board, attention must also be paid to education, activity levels, access to sports facilities and healthy and affordable alternatives to junk food. But identifying these problems is the easy part, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government and local government, where appropriate, to ensure that the broader aspects of public health are not lost, and that clear actions are put in place to address these challenges.’