Guest Blogger: Katie Mackintosh
Imagine if we planned services around the 15-20 per cent who need them the most, rather than the other way around?
Speaking at Voluntary Health Scotland’s sold out health inequalities seminar in Glasgow last week, Dr Pauline Craig, Head of Equality, NHS Health Scotland observed that if public services were to think differently and begin from this new starting point they would be clamouring to get the vital input of the voluntary health sector who work closely with those most deeply affected by health inequalities.
The public sector needs to be challenged, she said, and it needs to access the voices that it can struggle to hear.
The voluntary health sector has a lot to share about the lived experiences of those affected by health inequalities – as the 10 case studies featured in Voluntary Health Scotland’s ‘Living in the Gap: a voluntary health sector perspective on health inequalities in Scotland’ report demonstrate. It works with the most vulnerable people in society, supporting them to address critical issues and to make progress in their lives. Its services are creative, relevant and reactive with a positive focus on asset-building, preventative approaches and flexible, holistic service delivery. However, more work is needed to optimise the impact of the voluntary health sector.
The second event in Voluntary Health Scotland’s Living in the Gap seminar series on health inequalities explored how, through improved partnership working with the public sector, the voluntary health sector could play a greater role in reducing the impact of health inequalities on individuals, families and communities.
The inequalities they face are stark.
95 per cent of boys under 15 in the affluent area of Jordanhill will live until they are 65 and above.
In Bridgeton – just ten miles away but worlds apart – it is only 60 per cent.
These differences aren’t random. They are socially determined. The decisions that are made politically and socially have contributed to these health inequalities and so we will need to look further upstream, not just at an individual level, and be prepared to make difference choices as a society if we genuinely want to reduce health inequalities.
There is an opportunity ahead of next year’s Scottish elections for the Voluntary Health Sector to share its valuable experience and work with local candidates on local issues in order to build future connectedness to the Scottish Parliament and decision makers.
Health inequalities are everyone’s business and to mitigate, prevent and, eventually, undo these unfair differences in society we will have to work together.
The next Living in the Gap event will be in Dundee on 1 October. You can book your place for free, here: http://ow.ly/RkURY