The latest health inequalities statistics have been released by Scottish Government, which look at the gap in health outcomes between the most deprived and least deprived areas of Scotland.
The figures are reported for a variety of indicators in absolute and relative terms, including premature mortality, mental wellbeing, baby birth weight, self-assessed health, limiting long-term conditions and a range of morbidity and mortality indicators relating to alcohol, cancer and coronary heart disease.
In a number of indicators, absolute inequalities (the gap between the most and least deprived areas) have narrowed over the longer term but other areas have stalled, little has changed or trends in the absolute gap are less clear, including:
- mental wellbeing
- all-cause mortality (aged 15-44 years)
- healthy birth weight
- self-assessed health.
New figures relating to obesity have also been published and these show the gap between rich and poor is widening.
Responding to the statistics, Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:
The impact of inequality on child health should not be underestimated. It raises the risk of poor mental health, obesity and mortality and the publication of these latest statistics show they continue to be a threat to Scottish families on or below the breadline.
Latest obesity data, further emphasises the growing gap between rich and poor with the number of children at risk of overweight or obesity shown to be increasing in the most deprived areas but decreasing in the least deprived.
Women’s health before, during and after pregnancy is one key area that needs prioritising if we are to see a reduction in health inequalities with parents smoking status and weight having a huge influence on child health outcomes.
This divergence, where the wealthiest get healthier and the poorest get less healthy, demonstrates that poverty is at the heart of health and well-being in Scotland but also that these trends can be improved by changing people’s lifestyles.
Scottish Government has made a number of laudable public health commitments including expanding the number of health visitors in Scotland but this commitment is yet to be seen on the ground. We urge Scottish Government to push on with this vital plan to help turn the tide on inequality in Scotland.