The Director of Public Health for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has today (15 December 2009) called for new ways of thinking to tackle the unacceptable gap in health outcomes between rich and poor.
And in these turbulent financial times, she has appealed to her own medical profession to lead the way and consider a reduction in salary to create more equal pay differentials.
Launching her second biennial report, An Unequal Struggle for Health, Dr Linda De Caestecker said: “It is well known that the larger the difference in income between the affluent and more deprived people in a community, the higher the level of almost every modern social, environmental and health problem.
“Traditionally, public health experts have argued for levelling up of the circumstances of the poor to those of the rich to address these inequalities.
“The experience of the recession and our growing concerns about climate change show that this strategy is unsustainable. It would require consumption of more resources than are available globally.
“During this time of change we have an opportunity to develop a vision for a different Greater Glasgow and Clyde – a vision of a more equal and compassionate society, a more sustainable way of living with a greater sense of community, a society where it is easier to cycle than to get in your car and where we produce more of our own food.
“We should plan now to ensure that economic recovery comes about in a way that will support equality and sustainability.”
The Director of Public Health’s second report on the health of the population of Greater Glasgow and Clyde shows that, in many ways, people living in Greater Glasgow and Clyde have never been healthier.
Deaths from coronary heart disease have reduced by almost 40% over the last ten years through improved treatment and better prevention.
Cancer survival is getting better - for example five-year survival rates for breast cancer have increased from 64% for those diagnosed in 1980-84 to 84% in 2000-04.
Survival from childhood leukaemia has improved dramatically due to more effective treatment. Large improvements in survival are also seen for cancers of the colon and rectum, with 55% of patients now surviving at least five years compared with 35% of those diagnosed in 1980-84.
The report highlights however that, despite these advances, people from deprived communities continue to have lower life expectancy than those from other areas.
To continue the bid to tackle these unacceptable health inequalities, Dr de Caestecker sets out a number of priorities for action that she wants to see taken forward by the public and private sector over the next two years. These include:
• Developing a sustainable transport infrastructure which encourages active travel, including cycling and walking
• Supporting the introduction of car-free days in cities and towns
• Introducing a proof of age card for all young people under 25 who wish to purchase alcohol
• Strict enforcement of existing offences of supplying alcohol to someone who is drunk, with sanctions publicised to encourage other premises to comply
• Monitoring the use of health services to understand how the current credit crunch is affecting health
• Introduction of positive parenting programme, Triple P, to help improve educational, social and health outcomes for children.
Dr de Caestecker said: “In the midst of a world recession, national elections and preparations for the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games, I want this report to be my manifesto for improving health and wellbeing over the next two years.
“I want it to encourage all public and private sector organisations to step up to the challenge to support the most vulnerable in our population.
“And I want it to inspire some different ways of thinking about the complex problems that face us.”
Notes to Editors
An Unequal Struggle for Health will be launched at a major health conference in Glasgow city later today. Dr Linda de Caestecker will be available for interview in advance of the conference.
** Interviews will be held at Dalian House, St Vincent Street, Glasgow ** To arrange an interview, or for more information, contact 0141 201 4429.
For a full copy of the report, go to www.nhsggc.org.uk/dphreport