Why should a VHS member become a partner in Scotland’s Coalition for Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives?
It would be easy to ignore or dismiss the invitation from the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland to join this emerging coalition. After all, your organisation’s ‘to do’ list is already full. Your budget already over-stretched. Preconception health, education and care, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) might not be among your priorities.
The poster prepared for the 2021 VHS Annual Conference offers an overview of the issues being addressed by this new initiative from QNIS, a 132-year-old charity championing the role of community nursing in achieving a fairer, kinder, greener Scotland.
In creating this Coalition, QNIS is stepping out a bit from our established remit (and our comfort zone). We are asking VHS member organisations to do the same.
- Prevention matters. Our society tends to wait until harm occurs and then rush in to help: https://www.holyrood.com/comment/view,prevention-means-never-having-to-say-youre-sorry_7227.htm ‘After the fact’ remedies will continue to be necessary but keeping problems from happening in the first place is a better place to start. . 2021 is the 10th anniversary of the Christie Commission, which revealed 40% of Scotland’s public expenditure was to ‘clean up messes that could have been prevented’ at a much lower human and financial cost.
Scotland’s Coalition for Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives will focus on actions that avoid adversity and advance wellbeing. As a partner in this Coalition, your organisation will become part of a movement encouraging a societal shift toward primary prevention.
- We share common ground. Very few members of Voluntary Health Scotland have FASD or preconception health, education and care in their programmes of work. But many are still affected by the adverse consequences caused by these ‘blind spots’.
To cite just one example, the Scottish Government estimates that 172,000 children, young people and adults are living with FASD. More than 99% of them have never been formally diagnosed or properly supported. The lack of recognition and response results in those affected becoming ‘troubled and in trouble’ to a greater extent than those without this lifelong neurodevelopmental condition. The ‘secondary adversities’ encountered as a result of FASD include problems all-too-familiar to VHS member organisations: adverse childhood experiences, school failure, being bullied, unemployment, repeated low-level criminal offences, substance misuse, homelessness, mental health concerns, poverty and increased vulnerability to other chronic health conditions.
People affected by this invisible disability/multimorbidity are likely to be among the more challenging cases your organisation is dealing with right now. When they arrive with a history of being misunderstood and mistreated, your organisation and the help you can provide are affected, too.
- We need each other. While climate change is far more dramatic and world-changing, there are similarities with the Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives Both have been ‘under the radar’, and then ‘on the back burner’, for decades. Both have largely been ignored despite a strong, international evidence base about the reality – and urgency – of the entirely predictable problems of pretending ignorance is bliss. Both require cultural, professional and system changes, as well as specialist efforts, to safeguard and support our families, communities and societies. Both require an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ advocacy and action movement to make the positive differences upon which our collective health, wellbeing and quality of life depend.
In light of the above, QNIS hopes that other VHS member organisations will see themselves in the Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives picture. Perhaps your ‘to do’ list, resources and priorities can accommodate this opportunity. The next step is to become a partner in this new Scottish co-produced, co-operative, co-alition. The door is wide open, and your organisation is more than welcome.
Dr Jonathan Sher
Senior Fellow & HPBL Programme Lead