Tackling health inequalities

Written by: Ian Welsh, Chief Executive, the ALLIANCE

Published: 05/01/2015

Ian Welsh, the ALLIANCE, comments on the importance of tackling Scotland's variations in life expectancy.

This is an extract from a forthcoming ALLIANCE publication on health inequalties which will be published in the coming weeks.

We all have the right to the highest attainable standard of health and to the factors that enable this.  But in Scotland today health inequalities remain a blight on our communities and resistant to successive waves of political commitment and resource investment.

Whilst there is no doubt that for some there has been a steep improvement in life expectancy in the last fifty years, the variations in life expectancy across Scotland highlight our current and ongoing inability to eradicate a source of national shame and represent a significant human rights infringement which we as a society have yet to address and which requires us to take immediate action.  Increasingly, we have the evidence to inform how we can take effective action to address health inequalities.

The first year of Scotland’s National Action Plan on Human Rights (SNAP) has seen a number of organisations jointly working together on a raft of activity towards the mission of ensuring human rights based approaches are taken to tackling poverty and the delivery of health and social care.

Challenging the “in principle” commitments to tackling health inequalities will run through this work.  NHS Health Scotland, for example, has sought to promote and ingrain the use of Health Inequalities Impact Assessments across the country in order to inform action and policy development and planning to make changes and improve equality of access and non-discriminatory practice.

But achieving our goal will not only take a strengthening of the contribution of policies and plans to reducing health inequalities but also collective action is required to shape a healthier future.  Focusing on the existing strengths within communities who experience long-term disadvantage can bring improvements in health to bear.

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