Today, Scotland’s public health community has come together at a major new Conference to drive forward work to protect and improve health for the people of Scotland.

With life expectancy in Scotland stalling, and health needs set to rise dramatically over the next 20 years, this group of public health practitioners, academics, and third sector leaders are forging new avenues for collaboration, calling for a system-level response to turn the tide on Scotland’s declining health.

Jointly hosted by the Faculty of Public Health, Public Health Scotland, and the Scottish Directors of Public Health Group, this new Conference centred on the leadership role for public health in inspiring change and tackling the big issues creating problems for Scotland’s health including poverty, obesity, drug-related deaths, and tobacco.

The conference heard clear evidence that to improve health, determined action is needed to support the building blocks of health in areas such as tackling poverty, supporting children and young people, providing good quality housing, good jobs, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Discussing Scotland’s leadership in delivering successful system-level interventions such as Minimum Unit Pricing of alcohol, vaccination, and tobacco control, the Conference reflected that with dedicated collaboration, effective resourcing, and political will, the health and wellbeing of communities across Scotland can be enhanced for future generations.

Chief Executive of Public Health Scotland, Paul Johnston said:

“We are at a pivotal moment in public health where the focus is shifting significantly towards the need to prevent ill-health and promote wellbeing. In essence, prevention is about keeping people healthy and avoiding the risk of poor health, illness, injury, and early death.

By 2043, the burden of disease in Scotland is forecast to increase by 21%. Two thirds of this increase will be due to increases in cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurological conditions. Much of this increase is preventable, and it’s essential we work together to avoid more serious problems in the future that will impact on the sustainability of our health services.

Today’s conference was an opportunity to galvanise the public health community in our mission to see significant reductions in Scotland’s longstanding health challenges, increased life expectancy, and a narrowing of health inequalities. It shone a light on what needs to be achieved and how – through embedding a culture of prevention throughout our healthcare system and within wider society.”

FPH President, Professor Kevin Fenton CBE said:

“Prioritising good public health, with proper investment and effective system-wide policy will enable us to reverse the declining health and wellbeing we are seeing in Scotland, and build a solid foundation for sustainable productivity.

We know that investing in prevention is one of the most cost-effective interventions that the NHS and wider system can make in improving population health and reducing inequalities, with an estimated £14 returned for every £1 invested in prevention measures including vaccination programmes, reducing smoking, and encouraging healthy diet.

Find out more about the Scottish Public Health Conference

Scotland is so often a leader in delivering innovative, effective public health interventions, and we call for a commitment from Governments in Scotland and across the UK to prioritise public health as we move towards UK General Elections.”

Last updated: 02 May 2024