An inquiry that will investigate the impact of health inequalities in the early years has been launched by the Health and Sport Committee.
The Health and Sport Committee wants to determine whether early year interventions to tackle health inequalities are effective and if the current policy is working - from pre-birth services to interventions for young children.
The Committee has issued a call for evidence, asking for views on whether focusing investment on the early years is an effective way to tackle health inequalities. It will also investigate the role the health service plays in tackling health inequality through interventions in the early years.
This inquiry is part of a wider focus that the Health and Sport Committee has had on health inequalities. It undertook a scoping inquiry into the causes of health inequality and also undertook an inquiry into teenage pregnancy. The Committee is also expected to carry out a short piece of work on access to health services.
Convener of the Committee Duncan McNeil MSP said:
“Health inequalities and their link to poverty are well known. The Committee has already heard that where you live, your education and your income, plays a part in determining how long you live.
“There is already evidence available that suggests targeting resources at the early years – from pre-natal services to interventions for young children – results in more positive outcomes
“This inquiry will address how effective they are and what barriers and challenges exist.”
Deputy Convener of the Committee Bob Doris MSP said:
“The Committee found from its earlier work that health inequality links to wider societal inequalities.
“Whilst recognising the complex cause at the root of inequality more generally, it is important to recognise that steps can be taken to reduce health inequality.
“A significant amount of resource is invested in the early years so that will be our focus for this inquiry to determine if we are getting it right”.
The Health and Sport Committee began its work on health inequalities last year with a “scoping exercise” to set the overall context and a short inquiry into teenage pregnancy (which reported in May 2013).
The scoping exercise convinced the Committee that most of the causes of health inequalities are related to wider societal inequalities that are outside the remit of the Health and Sport Committee.
The Committee therefore agreed to attempt to widen the debate by reporting on the initial exercise, involving other subject committees and seeking a parliamentary debate.
The Committee’s report will be published in due course, once the committee has had the opportunity to complete the final part of its scoping exercise, which is to take evidence following the report of the Equally Well Ministerial Taskforce on health inequalities, expected shortly. Any parliamentary debate is expected to take place after summer 2014.
The closing date for written evidence is the 7 March and you can submit written evidence by emailing the Committee on [email protected].