Opinions

Prevention must be made a priority

Written by: Jonathan Roden, Policy Officer, BHF Scotland

Published: 23/10/2020

We need to act now to change our unhealthy environment and prevent 14,000 deaths every year from Scotland’s biggest killers.

Non communicable diseases (NCD), such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes, cause two thirds of all deaths in Scotland – 39,000 every year – and Public Health Scotland estimates that 14,000 NCD deaths could be prevented every year in Scotland through Public Health Interventions on issues like tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and overweight and obesity.

But it is not only the loss of life that we must tackle. NCDs also affect the quality of life of thousands of Scots. Scotland has one of the lowest healthy life expectancies in Western Europe and more than 590,000 years of “healthy life” are lost every year to NCDs in Scotland.

The coronavirus pandemic has also provided a wake-up call on these issues as possible links emerge between underlying NCDs and risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and obesity on the severity of Covid-19 infections, highlighting the need to act now more than ever as we continue to tackle the virus.

That’s why the BHF has joined as part of a group of ten charities dedicated to addressing NCDs and the risk factors that impact the nation’s health have come together to set out a series of urgent priorities to improve the health of everyone in Scotland.

And a key part of addressing this issue is ensuring that the actions we take and the work we do benefits everyone in Scotland.

Nowhere are the impacts of NCDs felt stronger than in our most deprived communities. Those in the least deprived areas are expected to be ‘healthy’ for 20 years longer than those in the most deprived areas. This is, in part, due to higher rates of tobacco use, harmful alcohol consumption and overweight and obesity.

A wealth of research shows us that the environment around us heavily influence whether we smoke, the amount of alcohol we drink and what we eat. Evidence shows that this is most acute in our most deprived communities and it is urgent that bold action is taken now.

It is also vital that support services are available to people who wish to quit smoking, reduce their alcohol intake or to lose weight regardless of where they live in Scotland.

Our manifesto highlights four areas where action could have a significant positive impact on our nation’s health:

  1. Reducing the availability of health harming products
  2. Regulating the marketing of health-harming products that helps to drive consumption and harm
  3. Restricting the use of promotions, making the price of health harming products less attractive, and through making healthier choices more affordable
  4. Investing in NHS support services for weight management, smoking cessation and alcohol treatment, placing them as a core NHS service

There’s more information on our recommendations here (this link will take you away from our website).

Ahead of May’s Scottish Parliamentary election, we are calling on all political parties to make the prevention of Scotland’s biggest killers a priority and commit to working with us to create a step change in the health of the nation. We must act now to ensure that the healthy choice is an easy choice for everyone in Scotland.

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Our Member

BHF Scotland

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