Audrey kindly gave permission for this piece to be reblogged from her own blogsite.
A recent convert to a Yes vote, Audrey has worked all her life in the health field, as a nurse, then as Director of the Long Term Conditions Alliance and of Breakthrough Breast Cancer Scotland. This piece suggests why she is now voting Yes on 18 September.
In 1948, the World Health Organisation developed this definition of health: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Who could argue with that? But how much do we invest in the whole concept of health and well-being; preferring instead to invest in fix-it models of healthcare? We know how to do this after all….or do we really? Yes, healthcare helps to reduce symptoms, occasionally even affects a cure-although more likely a move from an acute to a chronic condition. It provides opportunities to extend quantity and hopefully, quality of life and sometimes, it even relieves pain and suffering. So it’s important to have these drugs, therapies and treatments to improve our options and by extension, our lives.
But what is clear to me is that, this is not enough to enable well-being at a personal or community level.
Does it really make sense to give priority only to healthcare (and we could argue whether even that is enough) when the things that affect health are under so much pressure? When the words “housing crisis” have become common place, when we have more waged than un-waged poor, when food banks have crept into our communities in an unprecedented way: is it enough to rely on our health care system to fix it?
Health inequalities are increasing across Scotland and we see no reversal in this trend. In Glasgow alone, there is 13 years’ difference in male life expectancy from the most wealthy compared to the least wealthy. We are an increasingly unequal society and there are no policies currently at UK level which will address this.
And in spite of assumptions, health inequalities are not inevitable; a more equal society has better health outcomes for all. But for more than a generation they have become our norm. An acceptance that Scotland’s gift to the world is deep fried mars bars, early death from poor lifestyles our norm – a self-defeating normality fed by both media and our poor self-concept.
But it can be different.
A medal haul to be proud of in Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games can begin that shift in self-esteem. A confident nation, awake to its possibilities and ability to self-determine, is an important next step. The former CMO in Scotland, Sir Harry Burns expressed that an independent Scotland could also be a healthier one. I wholeheartedly agree. A nation self-confident and self-determining, with a shift from learned helplessness and hopelessness which has literally seeped into our DNA, to be one of energy, confidence, compassion and collaboration. To create a better nation for all is also a nation to be proud of.
But let’s not rely only on the transfer of power from London to Edinburgh alone but remember too, the message from the disability movement -nothing about us, without us -and ensure that applies at all levels in communities and for individuals. That’s how health and wellbeing flourishes in ourselves and in our communities.