Seven Key Investments for Health Equity across the Lifecourse: Scotland versus the rest of the UK



Frank JW, Bromley C, Doi L, Estrade M, Jepson R, McAteer J, Robertson T, Treanor M & Williams A (2015) Seven Key Investments for Health Equity across the Lifecourse: Scotland versus the rest of the UK. Social Science and Medicine, 140, pp. 136-146.

While widespread lip service is given in the UK to the social determinants of health (SDoH), there are few published comparisons of how the UK's devolved jurisdictions ‘stack up’, in terms of implementing SDoH-based policies and programmes, to improve health equity over the life-course. Based on recent SDoH publications, seven key societal-level investments are suggested, across the life-course, for increasing health equity by socioeconomic position (SEP). We present hard-to-find comparable analyses of routinely collected data to gauge the relative extent to which these investments have been pursued and achieved expected goals in Scotland, as compared with England and Wales, in recent decades. Despite Scotland’s longstanding explicit goal of reducing health inequalities, it has recently been doing slightly better than England and Wales on only one broad indicator of health-equity-related investments: childhood poverty. However, on the following indicators of other ‘best investments for health equity’, Scotland has not achieved demonstrably more equitable outcomes by SEP than the rest of the UK: infant mortality and teenage pregnancy rates; early childhood education implementation; standardised educational attainment after primary/secondary school; healthcare system access and performance; protection of the population from potentially hazardous patterns of food, drink and gambling use; unemployment. Although Scotland did not choose independence on September 18th, 2014, it could still (under the planned increased devolution of powers from Westminster) choose to increase investments in the underperforming categories of interventions for health equity listed above. However, such discussion is largely absent from the current post-referendum debate. Without further significant investments in such policies and programmes, Scotland is unlikely to achieve the ‘healthier, fairer society’ referred to in the current Scottish Government's official aspirations for the nation.

England and Wales; Lifecourse Epidemiology; Policies to Reduce Health Inequalities; Public Health; Scotland; United Kingdom

Social Science and Medicine: Volume 140

FundersChief Scientist Office of Scotland and Medical Research Council
Publication date30/09/2015
Publication date online18/07/2015
Date accepted by journal08/07/2015

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Dr Tony Robertson

Dr Tony Robertson

Lecturer in Geographies of Public Health, Biological and Environmental Sciences