IN 1992, the Wall Street Journal published an article about Glasgow’s poor health record entitled: “Being dead ain’t pure brilliant”.
It focused on the lifestyle and eating habits of many Glaswegians and the appalling statistics for life expectancy in some parts of the city.
Twenty years later, a report by the Glasgow Centre for Public Health asked if Scotland was “still the sick man of Europe”. Its findings suggested that, while the country still had a long way to go, there had been improvements in Scottish mortality in the 60 years from 1950 until 2010.
Without question, we have continued to see progress in a number of areas since then. Scotland was the first UK country to ban smoking in public. There is also clear evidence that people in Glasgow are more active than they were 20 years ago; cycling, walking and running and keeping fit. Schools are providing healthier meals.
Many challenges remain. Deaths through violence, drugs and alcohol contribute majorly to mortality rates in Glasgow and much needs to be done to establish a coherent social fabric in many areas.
Obesity is typically presented as people who are markedly overweight. This deflects our attention from the 60 per cent of the population who are overweight to some degree.
We need to focus on a message of healthy eating with moderate calorie intake combined with regular exercise. This will allow us to live longer, with a better quality of life.
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recently embarked on a health legacy project with 60 people with Type 2 diabetes who are overweight. Our hope is that the health benefits seen in these people following a programme of exercise and healthy eating will have a ripple effect.
The Commonwealth Games offers a golden opportunity for Glasgow to shed the sick man image and focus on its health. There are a number of examples around the world of a ripple effect where people buy into the lifestyle of the few by observing the benefits in terms of health. Glasgow is grasping this and changing to a city that can lead the world in healthy living.
• Dr Frank Dunn CBE is president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.