Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:38 pm on 4th May 2005.

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Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Independent 2:38 pm, 4th May 2005

To ask the Scottish Executive what action is being taken to improve public health. (S2O-6618)

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The Scottish Executive is taking forward a number of actions to improve public health. A range of measures have been put in place. Central to those measures is, of course, the introduction of our smoke-free Scotland legislation. Other important measures include improvement of oral health, the sexual health strategy, development of work to tackle health inequalities, action to improve health and action on homelessness, problem drinking, healthy eating, physical activity, mental well-being and men's health.

Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Independent

Does the minister agree that the provisions of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill, which Parliament approved at stage 1 last week, are an essential component in the Executive's overarching public health improvement strategy? Does he also agree that the provisions are every bit as important to the future health of the people of Scotland as are healthier eating and increased physical activity?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Absolutely. Central to Mike Watson's point is the fact that if we achieve what we want to achieve with smoke-free Scotland legislation we will see a reduction in the number of smokers in Scotland. In Glasgow, where the member has his constituency, cessation efforts in the past 18 months—without smoke-free Scotland legislation—have led to a 4 per cent reduction in the number of smokers. The additional work that I hope to achieve through Parliament's passing the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Bill will further reduce the number of smokers in Scotland for the long-term interests of our health and well-being.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative

The figures that Dr Andrew Walker used in his study of obesity levels were based on the 1998 Scottish health survey. Given that the 2001 Scottish health survey could be used to update those figures and thereby to paint a more accurate picture of the increasing obesity problem in the country, why has the Scottish Executive not yet published it and when will it do so?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

I will respond to the member in due course in relation to that point. However, let us talk about what we are doing to reduce obesity in Scotland. Our hungry for success programme in our schools is helping to change the diet of our young people. The World Health Organisation has commended our proposals for our physical activity strategy and our mental well-being strategy. Scotland is leading the way not only in the UK but in the world in relation to health improvement issues.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

Although I endorse the importance of smoking as an issue, will the minister say what co-operation he has succeeded in having with his colleagues to ensure that there is adequate funding and other support for improving our physical activity, our cultural activity—which helps to improve many people's health—and our community activity such as local enterprise, which can create jobs and so on, all of which have an impact on health but are the responsibility of other departments? I hope that the Scottish Executive's departments are co-operating to provide those services.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

I think that one of the great advantages that the Scottish Executive has over other Governments is that we are tightly joined up and can work across various departments. Our health strategy is based on the transition from early years to teenage years, to the workplace and to communities. That brings into play all the roles of ministers in the Scottish Executive. Health relates to life circumstances and lifestyles and to the various health issues that we know we have to address in Scotland. I argue that Scotland leads the way in relation to the action that we are taking on health improvement and in relation to what we are delivering.