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Public health leaders in Scotland call for a fairer welfare system

Delegates at the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) in Scotland Annual Conference have called for the fair treatment for people entitled to welfare. They also want greater commitment from local and national organisations to take decisive action on smoking and to promote active travel – walking, cycling and high quality public transport.

Social protection through a fair and properly designed and resourced welfare system is central to tackling health inequalities and supporting social justice. The current welfare reforms are indifferent to the needs of people entitled to protection from the state in times of hardship. The result will be more child poverty, declining mental wellbeing and a less productive workforce, driving an ever deeper wedge between the have-lots and the have-nots.

FPH President, Professor John Ashton, said: “Social protection is a basic function of governments. These welfare reforms and the way they have been introduced, for citizens who are entitled to support in facing hardship, make claimants look like the ‘undeserving poor’ – which they are not. An adequate income is a fundamental building block for health. Neither current benefits nor the minimum wage come close to this. As a consequence, both are suffering. We are particularly concerned about the effects that shifting public opinion will have on young people who are not in employment, education or training, and on young families and their children who live near the poverty line.”

Delegates supported Public Health Minister Michael Matheson's call for the introduction of standardised tobacco packaging in a bid to save the lives of 13,000 Scots who die from tobacco-related disease each year –  a position strongly supported by FPH. The conference also urged local and national organisations to work with walking and cycling bodies and local communities to create safer routes for walking and cycling in Scotland. Linking walking and cycle ways, and taking the bus or train would help people take more exercise and promote physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Dr Emilia Crighton, Convenor of FPH Scotland, said: “We will work with the Scottish Government to do all we can to make sure standardised tobacco packaging is implemented in Scotland. Thousands of Scots die each year from smoking – any reasonable measure to prevent this loss of life will get our support.” On the issue of physical activity, Dr Crighton added: “For most people in Scotland, current levels of physical activity and physical fitness are nowhere near adequate to ensure that people enjoy good physical and mental health throughout life. We need to do more to create places where walking, cycling and taking the bus are the easiest ways to get around – enjoyable, affordable and taking people where they want to go. FPH and local NHS Board Departments of Public Health, supported by NHS Health Scotland, are willing to support local groups and local authorities in their efforts to create places for walking and cycling opportunities and links to public transport across Scotland.”



For further comment on this statement or to arrange an interview contact the FPH Media Office on 020 7935 3115.

The FPH Scotland Annual Conference took place on 7-8 November 2013 in Dunblane. Attended by 330 delegates, it brought together leaders in public health to discuss the major challenges to improving health in Scotland. Keynote speakers included Public Health Minister Michael Matheson and Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Harry Burns.

About the Faculty of Public Health (FPH): FPH is the leading professional body for over 3,300 public health specialists in the UK. It works to improve people’s health and wellbeing through its core aims of setting the standards for and quality assuring the specialist public health workforce and advocating for action on public health issues. 

About NHS Board Departments of Public Health: NHS Boards are tasked with protecting and improving the health of their local communities and for the delivery of frontline healthcare services. There are 14 regional boards, and seven special NHS Boards (supporting the regional boards by providing a range of important specialist and national services). Each NHS Board’s Department of Public Health has a wide span of responsibilities, ranging from the response to individual notifications of infectious disease, to working at community level to promote a healthy and equal community, implementing a population screening programme and assessing the evidence for health service interventions. It also includes responsibility for health protection teams.

Written: 13/11/2013 , last modified: 24/12/2013