We welcome the prominence that Professor Alston’s report brings to the ‘severe toll on physical and mental health’ of poverty in the UK today. In particular, we welcome recognition of the role of the social security system and in-work poverty in worsening health outcomes. We also note the attention this report draws to the levels of child poverty which continues the poverty cycle. It underlines our concern that austerity is undermining our efforts to reduce health inequalities and uphold the right to the highest possible standard of health in Scotland.
Gerry McLaughlin, CEO at NHS Health Scotland said:
“Poverty is a public health problem, a human rights issue and a political choice. Professor Alston’s report sets this out clearly. In drawing on both first-hand accounts and evidence submitted from a range of organisations and individuals, Professor Alston has laid bare the extent of poverty and how it could be linked to the recent stalling of life expectancy.
“We all have a human right to good health. It’s not fair that life expectancy, or healthy life expectancy, is determined by having (or not having) the things that can help us live better and longer. We know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Through research we have done, we know that by shifting the focus to prevention, and creating policy that drives a fairer sharing of income, we can make a difference to the health of more people at the same time.
“Taking action to ensure everyone has the income they need to live longer, healthier lives is crucial. It includes actions like changing the system to increase the value of benefits and the wages from work, and ensuring people get their money without sanctions or stigma. And the way in which services are designed and delivered matters too – making it easier for people to access benefit entitlements and relevant, appropriate employment support is crucial.
“Our Delivery Plan sets out how we will work with others to address the distribution of income, power and wealth and support the realisation of Scotland’s public health priorities to create a fairer, healthier Scotland.”
To find out more about poverty and the primary causes of health inequalities in Scotland, see the Fundamental causes section of our website.