Scotland's public health priorities

The 2016 Health and Social Care Delivery Plan (external website) confirmed Scottish Government and COSLA's commitment to develop a set of public health priorities for Scotland by spring 2018.

Scotland’s public health priorities have been developed through a process of engagement with stakeholders from across Scotland. Feedback from stakeholders was reviewed by public health experts which helped to inform Scotland’s public health priorities.  You can see the papers from the advisory group to establish criteria and the expert group to advise on priorities.  A summary of the process to agree the priorities is outlined in the April oversight board paper.

This process identified six public health priorities for Scotland, where by working together we can improve healthy life expectancy and reduce inequalities, the priorities are:

  • A Scotland where we live in vibrant, healthy and safe places and communities.
  • A Scotland where we flourish in our early years.
  • A Scotland where we have good mental wellbeing.
  • A Scotland where we reduce the use of and harm from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
  • A Scotland where we have a sustainable, inclusive economy with equality of outcomes for all.
  • A Scotland where we eat well, have a healthy weight and are physically active.

The agreed priorities reflect public health challenges that are important to focus on over the next decade to improve the health of the nation.

The priorities are interdependent and related, reflecting the complexity of Scotland’s health challenges and the effort needed nationally, regionally and locally to make a difference. They provide a focus for collective action across the whole system to improve the public’s health and reduce health inequalities.

Building on success

The priorities do not reflect all of the activities and efforts that contribute to the health of the population in Scotland. There are many important activities undertaken by local government, public health professionals and others in Scotland, which protect and improve the public’s health. These include:

  • Work to protect the health of the population from serious risks and infectious diseases through vaccination, infection control and incident response (health protection).
  • Work to ensure our health and care services are designed and delivered in the best possible way to meet population needs and improve health and wellbeing.
  • Work currently underway through community planning and community based organisations on local priorities and local health challenges.

Our reform programme will build on and strengthen these essential activities, including in our work to establish a new public health body – Public Health Scotland.

As part of the reform programme's work on the public health priorities, a number of workshops called 'Realising the Public Health Priorities: Innovating for Change' were held in Autumn 2019. These workshops looked at innovative ways in which the public health priorities might be realised. These workshops brought together people working in different sectors to think about

  • the public health priorities
  • the work underway currently on these priority areas
  • how we could work differently in the future.

The findings from the workshops will be used to inform our approach to working with different organisations on the priorities.

Get Involved

Agreeing public health priorities is only the first step. By working together we will be able to improve the health of the population – but progress will take time. 
Organisations from the public and third sector have already committed to support Scotland’s public health priorities, the reform programme will continue to build on this commitment. Find out more and show your commitment to improving Scotland's health by supporting Scotland's public health priorities.


Developing Scotland’s public health priorities has been a collaborative process, we would like to thank the many people who contributed, including:

  • Our Expert Advisory Group: John Frank, Carol Tannahill and Colin Mair for their  insight and advices on how to agree a clear set of priorities.

  • Members of the Expert Group chaired by John Frank for their work to develop evidence-based evaluation criteria to help inform the setting of priorities.

  • Alana Atkinson and the Public Services Reform team at NHS Health Scotland who helped review Local Outcome Improvement Plans. 

  • Colin Mair, Angela Scott and Carol Tannahill for chairing the engagement events. 

  • The Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN)  for co-ordinating the regional stakeholder events and colleagues from across the wider public health community who facilitated, attended and contributed. 

  • The Faculty of Public Health and Voluntary Health Scotland for inviting the Public Health Reform team to actively participate and engage with delegates at their annual conferences. 

  • Asif Ishaq, Mark McAllister and Colin Sumpter from the Public Health Reform team.