Scotland's latest review of public health stresses the role of the third sector in helping to cure the nation's poor sickness record
The third sector’s role in tackling poverty and inequality is an essential element of improving public health, according to a new government report.
The Scottish Government’s 2015 Review of Public Health states that existing measures to tackle health inequalities that contribute to inactivity, obesity and mental health problems are not enough.
It calls for the creation of a public health strategy to set out population health priorities and specific measures to tackle them, which will include input from all sectors of society.
Scotland has one of the highest mortality rates in Europe and big gaps between the life-expectancies of its richest and poorest citizens.
We look forward to opportunities for the third sector to take part in the development of a national public health strategy, supporting the shift to preventative ways of working and tackling health inequalities in Scotland - Claire Stevens
The review report states that changing this will require a concerted effort across society, and recognises the important role the third sector plays alongside the public and private sectors.
It supports the third sector’s role in providing preventative community services, which range from sport clubs, social groups and befriending services to community health services. It notes the cost-effectiveness of these services in supporting the long-term health of Scots.
In a ministerial forward to the report, Maureen Watt, minister for public health, said: “The report reiterates the breadth of public health activity, covering both physical and mental wellbeing, undertaken by a range of professionals across the NHS, local authorities, the third sector, and through communities and by individuals.
“All of this activity goes towards creating a healthier population, addressing health inequalities and reducing the potential for ill health.”
She continued: “We have had a number of successes in Scotland, and on some issues we are recognised as leading the way. But there is clearly more that needs to be done as the issues we face are complex, combining an ageing population, enduring inequalities, and changes in the pattern of disease requiring action to address the determinants of population health, as well as particular health priorities. We need to be ready to respond effectively to all these challenges.”
The review report also recommends an enhanced role for public health specialists within Community Planning Partnerships and the new joint health and social care boards.
Claire Stevens, chief executive of Voluntary Health Scotland, which was involved in the review, said: “We welcome today’s findings and the recognition that the third sector makes a major contribution to the public’s health.
“We look forward to opportunities for the third sector to take part in the development of a national public health strategy, supporting the shift to preventative ways of working and tackling health inequalities in Scotland.”
Grant Sugden, chief executive of Waverley Care, sat on the review group on behalf of the third sector.
He said: "The third sector has always played an important role in improving Scotland’s public health, and continues to be particularly well placed to reach some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
"It was, therefore, important that the sector’s voice was included in this review and I welcome the report’s recognition of the key role charities play in addressing Scotland’s health challenges. It is now essential that we build on the report’s recommendations and that the third sector continues to play a full and active role in taking this forward.”