Closing the gap – or are we?

Issued by NHS Highland

Inverness is to host a major conference on health inequalities in the Highlands.

The keynote speaker at the ‘Closing the Gap’ event, to be held in the Eden Court Theatre on Tuesday 30th April, will be one of the leading experts in the field.

Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, will give a wide-ranging speech on the subject at the conference, which is being organised jointly by NHS Highland and The Highland Council.

While Sir Harry will consider the subject in general terms, the theme of the day is very much ‘Health Inequalities in the Highlands’ – the title of the speech to be delivered at the conference by Dr Margaret Somerville, NHS Highland’s Director of Public Health.

Dr Somerville will describe improvements in how long people are living in Highland but highlight that there is still a gap between the most and least deprived areas.

She said: “Heart disease, stroke and cancer together account for 40-50% of that gap. Other diseases due to alcohol and smoking are also major factors.  So we have a lot of work to do to make further inroads to tackle some of these inequalities.

The conference, which is open to members of the public but which is aimed primarily at public and third-sector organisations, will also highlight some of the ground-breaking health inequalities work being undertaken by the Highland Community Planning Partnership.

One of the projects on show is Inverness based - “Arts in Merkinch” which aims to promote social, physical, emotional and economic health by developing skills and providing access to arts and cultural activity of the local area

It specifically targets people with physical and learning disabilities; individuals and families who are socially and economically disadvantaged; adults and young people with mental health problems; people with physical illnesses; carers of people with physical, learning and mental health difficulties as well as young people leaving care settings. 

The work will be presented by Catherine MacNeil, Development Manager, and Laura Collins, Arts in Merkinch Board member

Isobel Grigor, Chief Executive of the Calman Trust will give an update on some of the Trust’s work around how they support young people across the Highland area.

In Inverness the most high profile element of their work is the Artysans café, which opened in December 2010.  Here young people learn the skills for work by operating as the staff, covering all areas consistently to a professional standard and achieving a qualification in the process.

Some short films have also been prepared to which will capture some of the energy and ideas happening across Highland all aimed at tackling inequalities from a grass roots perspective.  These will include the Pultneytown People’s Project in Wick, North Coast Connections in North West Sutherland, Inverness Green Gym, and Rag, Tag ‘n Textile based in Skye and Lochlash.

On show in the exhibition areas will be 24 examples of local and national initiatives all aimed at sharing learning. Each stand will have someone available to answer queries.

The Event, which has attracted almost 400 people, will be opened by Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Drew Hendry and the summing up will by Elaine Mead, Chief Executive of NHS Highland.

Areas within NHS Highland, that consistently appear among the most health deprived and the least health improved across a number of measures include: parts of Inverness (Merkinch, Muirtown, Central and Raigmore), Wick South, Helensburgh East, Oban South, Dunoon, Campbeltown, Invergordon and Fort William North.

You can also follow updates on twitter #closingthegap


26 Apr 2013