What would it take for a Paradigm Shift in Scotland’s Health?

Submitted by the People’s Health Movement (PHM) Scotland ahead of their People’s Health Assembly on 10th June, this article was written by its Steering Committee: Tony Robertson, Mark Langdon, Sue Laughlin, Eva Gallova, Neil Quinn, Giulia Loffreda and Toby Pepperrell.

The combination of the climate emergency and a crushing cost of living crisis have often been described in recent months as a socio-ecological polycrisis. In this era, where is the alternative to the neoliberal playbook of austerity, trickle down economics, and the never-ending focus on economic growth as the medicine for all ills? The future of Scotland, independent or otherwise, is appallingly bleak if new policy ideas are not put forward, discussed, and enacted. Informed and critical democratic engagement is the only vaccine that can hope to address the pandemic of what the RAND Corporation call ‘truth decay’, that is already undermining the fundamental rights of the vulnerable and threatening the existence of future generations. In the realm of public health, groups like Medact, Global Justice Now and the People’s Health Movement are doing brilliant work across civil society to improve the health and wellbeing of our society, while the Enough is Enough movement is continuing to rise up and address the cost of living crisis. Yet all can be guilty of focusing on simply trying to survive, rather than giving people alternatives and the ability to thrive. In Scotland, we are caught in a cycle of paying to fix what we continue to break. Public Health Scotland lament that there is ‘continued low investment in primary prevention, which would address the upstream drivers of poor health, social and economic outcomes. Failing to invest in primary prevention now continues to increase the demands facing health and social care and wider public services over the coming decades.’ What forces in Scotland can come together to energise a paradigm shift from the grassroots? Who will unanimously advocate systems change to support the health and wellbeing of people and planet as our core aims, rather than an outdated, misguided and unfair focus on economic growth and finances?

The People’s Health Movement (PHM) Scotland wants to catalyse this paradigm shift by bringing people together for a People’s Health Assembly (PHA) on 10th June 2023. The 2023 Assembly will recognise the failures of current and past approaches, but more importantly will highlight the breadth and depth of positive alternatives. The aim is to create a space for organisations and groups concerned about health to fashion a more effective response to Scotland’s growing health crisis. In view of the impact of austerity and inflation on workers from a wide range of sectors, it is especially important that this includes participation from trades unions. Scotland has its own rich tapestry of activism interlacing the global, the national and the local, as well as networks of support for communities and individuals. Yet these efforts lack synergy, leading to a loss of effectiveness. We will focus on the processes of social movement building and grassroots activism in shifting from surviving and coping (by some better than others) to systems change. When voices come together they can re-ignite solidarity in the face of detached politics.As the leadership of the SNP and the Scottish Government shifts, the policy status quo that has wreaked havoc on our population’s health will seemingly continue. Ineffective responses and worsening outcomes, such as falling life expectancy, can only be reimagined in a positive and united civil society. If another well-meaning event on health inequalities or climate fills you with dread or apathy, please think again. In order to create an event that will energise as many groups and individuals as possible, and one that has the best chance to achieve our objectives we are asking individuals, community groups and organisations, including trade unions, to input into our planning.

PHM Scotland is inviting members of the public to facilitate discussions in communities and organisations, online, through in-person meetings/events, or through any other means, to generate insightful contributions that can be put forward to help to shape the PHA. PHA ask that responses are made via a short survey found at the link below. If you would like more information on the PHA, you can join the mailing list via the website.


If you would like more information on the PHA, and/or PHM Scotland, you can join the mailing list at https://peopleshealthmovementscotland.wordpress.com/subscribe

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