Prevention and Scotland's health challenges

Written by Dr Catherine Calderwood, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer on 8 June 2015 in Comment

Scotland's Chief Medical Officer on what is better than a cure

It’s no secret that Scotland faces multiple health challenges. Obesity, alcohol consumption and an ageing population are just a few of the conundrums that the medical population have been grappling with in recent years. 

As an obstetrician, I like to think I have a slightly different perspective to many other doctors. 
The people I come into contact with on a professional basis are not patients with an illness or condition; they are women who are doing the most natural thing in the world – having a baby.
Of course there are complications and problems which have to be dealt with, but for the most part, our focus is on keeping them safe, keeping them healthy and ensuring their contact with the health service runs as smoothly as possible. 

That gives me a particular interest in the preventative measures we can all take to maintain our health. 
As in most other countries, Scots are living longer than ever. 

But I want those years to be healthy and happy for as many people as possible.

Good health is one of the most precious things we can ever possess. It is truly priceless.

Holding on to that good health, if you’re fortunate enough to possess it, is one of the secrets to a happy life. It may be a cliché, but prevention is better than cure. 
It’s often said that giving up smoking is the single best thing a person can do for their health. I’m not going to argue with that, but I’d suggest that not starting smoking in the first place has to come pretty close.

As a doctor, I am often talking to patients about the importance of losing weight. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done once unhealthy habits are in place.
How much better to eat a good diet, take plenty of exercise, and never have the weight problem in the first place?

Many of us struggle with mental health problems, and the Scottish Government is doing a lot of work to improve services so that help is there when people need it.
If you’re lucky enough to have good mental health, don’t complacently think it can never happen to you. 

Think about what you can do to maintain your good mental health, exactly as you’d think about how to stay in good physical health.

We all lead busy lives, but spending time with friends and family, doing things you enjoy and taking physical exercise are all things we should be making time for.
It’s these preventative measures that I want us all to be focusing on. 

A fundamental change to the way health and social care services are delivered – integration - will come into force next year, meaning we are going to have to deliver healthcare in a very different way for a changing society.

It is predicted that by 2037, the number of people with a long-term condition will rise by 83 per cent and what is clear is that the traditional models of care, where the NHS and the social care sector work independently of each other, are no longer suitable to effectively care for these people.
Integration is one of the most ambitious programmes of work this Government has undertaken, and one which is designed to deliver sustainable health and social care services for the future that are centred around the needs of patients. 

Over the last few years, Scotland has been working hard towards this goal and we now have 32 integration partnerships across the country. These have all set out how they plan to integrate those health and social care services under their joint responsibility. This is a significant step forward and brings us ever closer to this fundamental change that all have recognised we need if we are to make services sustainable in the future.

As well as making sure that integration improves people’s journeys through the health and social care system, we also need to make sure that the views and opinions of these individuals are heard.

We have been working in partnership with the Scottish Health Council, COSLA, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, public partners and the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland to develop a new framework to effectively listen and respond to those who use health and social care services.  

As we remove the barriers to health and care pathways and aim for seamless services for people by integrating health and social care, the timing for developing a stronger system of hearing the service user and public voice could not be better.  

This is about a commitment, across health and social care services, and with policymakers, to ensure that people using services are active partners at the centre of how those services are designed and delivered, and how their success is measured. 

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