Wake up, we're on the burning deck

14th November 2003 at 00:00
Neil Munro reports from the TES ScotlandEdinburgh City Council annual conference

In a powerful address, Phil Hanlon, professor of public health at Glasgow University, issued a "wake-up call" to the country's growing health problems.

On the world health index, Scotland was between Cuba and Costa Rica. "I hope you are truly shocked by that," Professor Hanlon said.

Mental health problems among the young are escalating, inactivity is such that Scotland is second only to the United States in having the worst levels of obesity in the developed world, sexual health is a growing problem and there has been a fourfold increase in alcoholism in 15 years.

In Glasgow Shettleston, the UK's most deprived constituency, one in two 15-year-olds will not live to see retirement. This represents a 14-year life difference with North East Fife, the most advantaged constituency.

Professor Hanlon suggested one measure ought to be that, so long as young people are in school, there should be an insistence that they should eat healthily and be active. "What sense does 'choice' make for a six-year-old?" he asked.

"I don't think we realise we are on the burning deck," Professor Hanlon concluded. "And if you are on the burning deck, the last thing you do is to build a mast - even in partnership."

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