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October 27, 2004 9:00 AM

Scotland's key scientists hold scientific meeting to discuss way forward to improve Glasgow's health

SCOTLAND'S top health advisers, researchers and scientists gathered today (October 27, 2004) in the first meeting looking at why Glasgow's health record is so poor and to officially launch the new Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

Held in the Teacher Building, St Enoch Square, Glasgow, the scientific meeting saw the cream of Scotland's health thinkers gather to look why Glasgow has the worst health in Europe and to discuss new ideas on how to tackle the issue.

Amongst those attending were Health Minister, Andy Kerr as well as representatives from NHS Greater Glasgow, neighbouring health boards, Glasgow's universities and colleges, Glasgow City Council, neighbouring local authorities, the Scottish Executive, Glasgow Housing Association and other organisations including Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and COSLA.

Mr Kerr said: "The health record of the people of Scotland has been traditionally poor – amongst the worst in Europe. In recent years we have seen a welcome improvement. But at the same time, there has also been a widening in health inequalities.

"That's what we need to tackle and that is what we are tackling. This is not just about health but about the wider agenda of closing the opportunity gap by reducing poverty and promoting social inclusion, educational attainment and employability.

"That is why we are investing £1m each year in a project such as the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.  The Centre will bring together local people with the local Council, universities and health experts who will work to identify the issues that cause the health gap and find the solutions to close that gap.  Its findings will make a difference and help close the gap.

"The Centre will develop understanding of what levers and actions are most effective in achieving health benefits.  For example they will look, with the Glasgow Housing Association, at how housing investment programmes can impact on and optimise health gains.  In focussing on the role played by mental health, it will examine how attributes like sense of control, optimism and confidence impact on determining health outcomes.

"This could influence community regeneration initiatives and the way in which communities are involved in them.  The Centre will evaluate Glasgow's unique smoking cessation service and scope the City's approach to tobacco control.

"We also know that people from the most deprived backgrounds in Scotland are less likely to access healthcare services and treatments available.  That is why we are investing in an innovative unmet need pilot study in Glasgow and are a supporting a huge range of other initiatives from across the Executive to tackle Glasgow's poverty and disadvantage.

"If we can begin to fix Glasgow's health problems we will begin to fix Scotland's health problems."
A partnership between NHS Greater Glasgow, the universities of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council, the Centre is based at St Vincent Place, Glasgow.

Dr Carol Tannahill, Glasgow Centre for Population Health manager, said: "We were delighted with the number of people who attended today's meeting and took part in a very positive and constructive discussion on Glasgow's health. They brought with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that we will be able to tap into as the Centre progresses in its drive to improve the health of Glaswegians."
Dr Tannahill revealed that one of the first things the Centre will be doing is setting up new initiatives which will provide new analysis on why people from the deprived areas of Glasgow are not only unhealthier than other Glaswegians, but than residents of deprived areas in other parts of the UK.
She said: "We believe there's something unique to the city that we're calling the ‘Glasgow effect'. Part of the work we will be doing at the Centre is to understand the effect that living in Glasgow has on health, comparing it with other parts of the UK and abroad. Poverty and deprivation don't adequately explain why many people in Glasgow suffer from such poor health. It's more complex than that. We need to explore it fully."

She said that there would be three components to the work of the Centre. Working in partnership with a range of different professionals, the Centre aims to:

·        develop a better understanding of the components of ill health in Glasgow;

·        build more effective action by influencing policy, challenging orthodoxies and supporting new ways of working.

Dr Harry Burns, Director of Public Health with NHS Greater Glasgow, agreed that although poverty is important, it isn't the only factor in the poor health of Glaswegians.

He said: "The circumstances in which people live are critically important to their health. There is increasing evidence that the more a person is in control of their life, the better their health will be.

"By trying to understand the physiological impact of a person getting a new job or a new house or living in a safer community, we can get a better understanding of how these things impact on health. This will be one of the main research strands the Centre will be looking at."

This new approach isn't the only unique thing about the Centre, Dr Burns revealed, what's also new is the way the Centre will involve a range of different professions.

"In Scotland, we're lucky to have a wealth of experts from differing backgrounds who will be contributing to the Centre. That includes a wide range of health professionals and academics as well as people from local authority, housing, economic development and planning. By working together, we hope that we can identify the key reasons for the poor health of Glasgow and devise new ways of improving health for all Glaswegians."

Professor Sir John Arbuthnott, Chairman of NHS Greater Glasgow added: "The gap between Glasgow's affluent and disadvantaged communities in terms of health must now be tackled in a completely new way.  If we don't do this, the gap will remain and widen. The Centre for Population Health has the task of delivering in this vitally important aspect of health improvement."



There were three main parts to the day:

·        10.10am  -  Session 1 Understanding Glasgow's Health includes a presentation by Dr Carol Tannahill on the new centre and a discussion on the complexities of Glasgow's health;

·        11:15 am - Session 2 Health Inequalities: Building the Evidence Base includes presentations by Professor Ken Judge (Head of Public Health and Health Policy and Director of Community Based Sciences, University of Glasgow) on public policy and health inequalities, Dr Linda Bauld (senior lecturer and Director of the MA in Public Policy at the Department of Urban Studies, Glasgow University) on tackling smoking and Michael Lennon (Chief Executive, Glasgow Housing Association) and Dr Mark Petticrew (Associate Director of the MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit) on healthy housing;

·        2:00 pm - Session 3 Improving Health: New Thinking with presentations by Dr Harry Burns (Director of Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow) on how health is created, Dr Naveed Sattar (Reader in Endocrinology & Metabolism and Honorary Consultant in Clinical Biology at the University of Glasgow) on biological responses; Professor Keith Millar (Professor and Head of the Section of Psychological Medicine at Glasgow University Medical School) on psychological responses; Dr Donald MacLean, Dr Robert MacIntosh and Professor Peter Allen on organisations responses. 

The day ended with a panel discussion.


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Last Updated: 11 November 2021