Today’s blog is from @MalcolmChisholm1, one of the directors at the Scottish Cancer Foundation. Malcolm is also known to many as previous MP for Edinburgh Leith and also Minister for Health in the Scottish Parliament at the start of the 21st Century His commitment to all health matters and cancer related issues remains a key part of his current work (and leisure activities!)

It’s hard to see positives coming out of our experiences from 2020 but one fact we soon learned about the virus was that it was safer to be outside than inside and this perhaps contributed to a boom in cycling and some other outdoor activities. I have cycled for many years but have rarely enjoyed it as much as last year, the highlight being a 71 km sponsored cycle as part of the Edinburgh Women’s Aid team on virtual Kiltwalk day. I’m sure this renewed enthusiasm will continue into the year ahead and I hope that will also be the case for the thousands who’ve derived particular pleasure from outdoor exercise in a year when so much time had to be spent indoors.

Restrictions and precautions will have to continue for quite some time but as vaccines allow the situation to improve over the course of the year, attention will increasingly focus on building back better. One area where we can look forward with a great deal of expectation if not yet hope is food policy.

Expectation derives from the work of the Ministerial Working Group on Food which is developing a statement of policy, perhaps as a prelude to a Good Food Nation Bill which was planned but dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic. The Scottish Food Coalition comprising a wide range of voluntary organisation, including for example Obesity Action Scotland, is lobbying hard for strong social justice, health and environmental objectives and an end to the current fragmented approach to food policy. 

One of the demands of the campaigners is for support for local authorities to develop localised food plans and food growing strategies. I am pleased to see Edinburgh consulting on the latter at this time and have seen over many years the advantages of growing food locally through being on the Board of Leith based Crops in Pots whose members grow food on a large area in Leith Links. Hopefully this model can be encouraged and supported as an important part of the drive towards more plant based and sustainable diets.

So while health dominated last year for reasons that have so often been negative and distressing, hopefully this year it will be a more positive story, not just because of vaccines but through progress on food and exercise as well as the wider determinants of health.