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Call by Highland Labour MSP David Stewart for more action on health inequalities made clear by coronavirus

By Gregor White

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A Highland MSP has called for more to be done to address health inequalities laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic.

Statistics from the National Records of Scotland indicate that those living in the poorest areas of the country are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to those living in more affluent districts.

At a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee held recently, Labour MSP David Stewart raised the issue with health secretary Jeane Freeman and demanded action.

“There may well be future pandemics, or of course regional health emergencies such as the foot and mouth crisis in 2001, but we can read the crystal ball that the poor will get a raw deal on these,” he told her.

Ms Freeman agreed there was a “clear, pressing demand” to address health inequalities and said the chief medical officer had been tasked to undertake work on the issue.

Mr Stewart said: “In 1997, premature mortality rates were three times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived; in 2018, rates were four times higher in the most deprived areas.

“Over the last decade there has been a desperate need to plough more investment into these communities, to find better ways to tackle health inequalities. Covid-19 has brought into sharp focus that this has not happened and it’s shameful.”

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