Bold action needed to improve public health - David McColgan

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a major cause of ill health in Scotland, responsible for more than 40,000 deaths each year. Analysis suggests that as many as 8,000 – or one in five of these deaths – could be prevented through public health initiatives.

Reducing the consumption of health-harming products like alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food and drink is one of the key ways to reduce the number of lives lost to, and affected by, NCDs. What’s more, the consumption and availability of health-harming products are often highest in our most deprived areas and so we must take bold action to ensure that the healthy choice is the easy choice for people in Scotland, regardless of where they live.

For the past year, BHF Scotland has been working in coalition with eight leading health charities, calling for action to tackle NCDs which include heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes.

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Earlier this month a new poll, commissioned by the coalition revealed that two out of three people (67 per cent) in Scotland think the Scottish Government should be doing more to improve public health. The survey also revealed wide-ranging public support for the introduction of initiatives to tackle the availability, marketing and price and promotion of health harming products.

David McColgan, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager, BHF Scotland

Among the key findings, more than three quarters of Scots (78 per cent) polled were in favour of banning advertising of all tobacco and nicotine products; three in five (62 per cent) would welcome restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotions online, in public spaces and at sport and cultural events; and eight out of ten (81 per cent) were in favour of introducing policies which ensure fruit and vegetables are cheaper to buy than unhealthy foods.

The poll of 1,000 adults in Scotland, conducted by YouGov, also revealed two out of three (67 per cent) were in favour of setting a minimum and maximum price for tobacco, while more than two thirds (68 per cent) supported health warning labels on alcohol products.

The survey comes as our own analysis at BHF Scotland reveals that before the end of this parliamentary term in 2026, the number of obesity-related NCD deaths in Scotland each year could increase by as much as 10 per cent, with recent trends also suggesting progress made in reducing alcohol-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions is stalling.

The coalition is also expressing concerns over growing health inequalities, claiming the burden of obesity, tobacco-use and alcohol consumption is higher in the most deprived areas, contributing to a 24-year gap in healthy life expectancy between Scotland’s most and least deprived communities.

For years, the Scottish Government has prided itself as being a world leader in public health, but the sad reality is we are being overtaken by other countries. Commitments to introduce new measures to improve public health have been repeatedly delayed and all the while the burden of disease is being felt by the most vulnerable in our communities.

It is evident that the public believes the Scottish Government should be doing more and supports increased measures to tackle these issues. We have already waited too long and the Scottish Government must now take bold action and deliver a comprehensive public health bill urgently.

You can read the full report here

David McColgan, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager, BHF Scotland

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