We are all shamed by Scotland’s poor health record. But we are even more shamed by the wide inequalities in health caused by socioeconomic differences.
- Inequalities that see our poorest, most disadvantaged bearing the greatest burden and suffering the most.
- Inequalities that manifest as unjust differences in life expectancy (how long we live)
- Inequalities observed across our communities, cities, and country
These inequalities translate into dark statistics:
“The poorest living more than a decade less than the richest.”
“The poorest suffering twice as many cancer deaths than the richest.”
“The poorest parents suffering twice as many unimaginable infant deaths than the richest.”
The Socialist Health Association – a Labour Party affiliate organisation – was established to campaign for the NHS in 1948, and we now we believe that tackling inequality that plays out in health and disease, in life and death is the greatest challenge we face in politics and as a society. And that the time for action on health inequalities is now. That is why we are delighted that Neil Findlay and the Scottish Labour Party have also grasped this reality and have commissioned a health inequalities policy review.
When Neil Findlay took on the role of Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, he quickly identified that this portfolio was far more than about health services – important and essential as they are. For instance he quickly understood the crisis we face in social care, and that the greatest issue we face as a county is the deep rooted social injustice that leads to people in the poorest communities of Scotland living decades less than those from the wealthiest communities.
When Neil asked me to chair Scottish Labour’s Health Inequalities Policy Review Commission, I was enthused and knew immediately that I was up for the challenge. I saw that Neil, and the Scottish Labour Party understood that the answers to health inequalities are beyond health service reform and that we would need to take a broad approach. We readily agreed that we did not want the usual health only usual suspects round the table and how we wanted representatives from communities who bear the burden of health inequalities the most.
The Reference Group we have now established have committed to go further than that and undertake a series of community engagement exercises across the country listening to people who rarely have a say in policy development. Our launch meeting, in the Scottish Parliament in February, brought together a diverse Reference Group with representatives from community groups, activists, the voluntary sector, councils, health professionals and health services, academia, the Unions, and the Labour Party – members from across Scotland and the UK.
At our launch meeting, we ran a priority setting workshop. Here’s a flavour of our high optimistic discussions… We aim to make tackling health inequalities a top priority for Scottish Labour Party and the country. And we want to see:
- Action on income and its links to health
- Action on the inverse care law – improving equity of access to public and health services
- Action to prioritise the early years
- Action to reinvigorate community development
- AND Action on public health legislation
From this intend to propose a raft of policies:
- policies that cut-across health and wider public services
- policies that can be taken forward in the short, medium and long term – that take into account current and potential future constitutional arrangements.
- AND policies that are costed – taking into account current spending realities, – but which also consider what could/should be done with reallocating and reprioritising resources.
Finally, we do not want this to be another top down review, and as well as our established diverse Reference Group and planned community engagement we are seeking views from a broad a range of people and organisations across Scotland. I would urge you to all take part and respond to our written call for evidence.
Dr David Conway
Socialist Health Association Scotland
Scottish Labour Party Health Inequalities Policy Review Commission
– See more at: http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/blog/entry/neil-findlay-launches-review-to-tackle-scotlands-health-inequalities-shame#sthash.2wDOvkTd.dpuf