Poverty, health and mortality patterns in Scotland

Poverty in Scotland is the focus of the first lecture in a series of lectures at St Aloysius College in Glasgow, which starts next Tuesday. The Centre for Social and Environmental Justice at the Jesuit school will welcome Sir Harry Burns, former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, who will look at the health problems facing Scotland in his lecture entitled The Biology of Poverty.

“More than 250,000 people aren't properly fed, according to the Poverty and Social Exclusion project,” says Lynn McWilliams from St Aloysius College who is coordinating the lecture series. “A recent study claims that nearly one million Scots can’t afford adequate housing, about 350,000 children live in cold homes in winter. It’s no wonder that poverty has an adverse impact on people’s health!”  [Sources: PSE Project, BBC, Heriot-Watt University, Glasgow University]

In his lecture at St Aloysius College on Tuesday (2 September), Sir Harry Burns – a Governor of the school – will examine new evidence about the links between poverty and social dislocation in the West of Scotland and the wide differences in life expectancy across the region. His talk will also offer some possible solutions to the problem.

Health inequalities

Sir Harry graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1974 and became a Consultant Surgeon in 1984. It was while working with patients in the east end of Glasgow that he gained insight into the complex inter-relationships between socio-economic status and illness.  Having been appointed Chief Medical Officer for Scotland in 2005, his responsibilities included aspects of public health policy and health protection. He has continued his work on how societies can create health and wellbeing and is particularly interested in methods for reducing inequalities in health. Since April 2014, he has been Professor of Global Public Health at Strathclyde University where he has continued to research how societies create health and how complex systems theory can be used to improve the health of populations.

“We are delighted that Sir Harry Burns will be the first to speak in this year’s lecture series,” says Ms McWilliams. “His talk, The Biology of Poverty, will challenge the commonly held beliefs about underlying causes of our poor health and the pattern of mortality we see in the population.”

Sir Harry Burns’ lecture will form part of a series entitled ‘Poverty in a World of Plenty’. Other speakers will be Sr Lynne Barron FCJ, who will address poverty and women, and the potential impact of education (9 September); and award-winning television, radio and internet producer for the BBC, Mary Colwell, who will close the series on 16 September with her examination of poverty in the natural world.

All lectures take place in St Aloysius College Hall, Hill Street, Glasgow G3 6RJ at 7pm. Admission is free.

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