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Policy framework and background - Health Inequalities

The Scottish Government, health service and public sector have made it a priority to address the consequences of inter-generational factors that perpetuate health inequalities from parent to child – for example, educational and health outcomes, by engaging individuals, families and communities most at risk. Addressing inequalities in the early years in terms of quality of services, access to services, and overall experience is instrumental to this commitment.

Reducing inequalities is a key outcome of the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authority’s joint Early Years Framework. This is supported by the Scottish Government’s report from the Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities, Equally Well. This brings a multi-disciplinary and cross-sector approach to thinking on poverty, children’s lives and support for families and environments. The recommendations of this report set out that all work which flows from Equally Well should be equality impact assessed to ensure any differential impact be identified and addressed.

The key recommendations from the Task Force for the Early Years are as follows:

  • NHS boards should improve the capacity of antenatal services to reach higher risk groups and identify and manage risks during pregnancy.
  • The Government should lead the development of support services for families with very young children ast risk of poor health and other poor outcomes.
  • The Government should develop a community-based integrated school health team approach, increasing the nursing staff and other professionals supporting schools
  • The Curriculum for Excellence reforms should continue their strong focus on literacy and numeracy and health and wellbeing
  • Curriculum for Excellence should provide continuity and progression through school to post-school and should aim to keep young people in learning after the age of 16
  • Physical environments that promote healthy lifestyles for children, including oppportunities for play, physical activity and healthy eating, should be a priority for local authorities and other public services.

The Maternity Services Action Group is the overarching strategic group convened by the Scottish Government to provide leadership and direction in relation to the implementation of policy into practice and the review of maternal standards.

The Dahlgren and Whitehead (1991) model illustrates the layers of influence on health and maps the relationship between the individual, their environment and disease. The model highlights that tackling the consequences of inequalities involves every aspect of public services and rests on the principles of early intervention and prevention.