SCOTLAND’S outgoing chief medical officer says the nation’s image as a land of lazy, fat drunks is unjustified.
Sir Harry Burns claimed Scotland was attracting worldwide attention for its fight against unhealthy habits such as smoking, drinking, obesity and violence.
Talking before he takes up his new post as a Professor of Global Public Health at Strathclyde University, Sir Harry said that for the past eight years policy has aimed to target the the inequalities between rich and poor to target a health divide.
Along with this, Sir Harry said that a huge emphasis had recently been placed on the Early Years programme to help mothers and youngsters up to the age of eight.
However, he did admit that there is still an ongoing problem when it comes to the nation’s well being.
Sir Harry said that Scots should not be “negative” when it comes to health, and that the nation’s image of poor health can be reversed just as quickly as it happened.
He said: “If you keep on telling people they are useless. they’ll believe you. We shouldn’t be negative. We are looked at as a country that has grasped the issues.
“Scotland’s reputation for poor health happened quickly. We have to believe it can be reversed quickly.
“Ill health, failure at school, high offending rates – none of these are inevitable. Far from it.
“If you can intervene in the early years, you can improve the health of children for many years to come.”
This comes after a report published last month by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health found the “excess” levels of morality and poor health in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, had resulted in “shortened and wasted lives” north of the border.
Despite this, Scotland is currently leading the way with the lowest infant mortality rate in the UK, with health officials hoping to further reduce this in the next 18 months.
Starting with antenatal care, the Early Years programme targets maternal stress, tobacco, drugs, alcohol and poor nutrition.
Sir Harry said : “The principle behind it is the same as won the cycling team all those gold medals. Small changes in a lot of areas deliver a big change in overall performance. These incremental changes will lead to a big change in infant mortality. This kind of improvement science is catching people’s attention.”
“Academics will mull over the causes but when people are drinking much more, and factors such as suicide and violence come into play, you have to look at society and work out what is going on. The Early Years partnership has shown us that we have methods we can use to change complex societal systems.
While Sir Harry did say that positive steps are being taken to address Scotland’s health problems, he said that he “absolutely” accepted that there was a relative deterioration in the health of younger working age group, “due to things like alcohol.”
He said: “Over the last three decades the damage done by alcohol has become a serious and significant issue.”