Our final thoughts on Look Forward in 2021 is from Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland (ASHScotland)

Clearly there is much work to be done in changing our public health landscape and working together is key to addressing what lies ahead.

Amidst the noisy celebrations of New Year’s Eve in 2020, some public health voices sounded an alarm over a new viral outbreak being reported in China. A year on, the ensuing pandemic has touched all our lives. Less visible is the collateral damage – widening gaps in health equity, missed diagnoses and treatments, and the capacity for services to meet demands. COVID-19 underlined how inter-connected we all are. The importance of caring for each other and the need for consistent public health leadership shone through. I hope we bring that learning to the choices we make this year. Of Scotland’s public health priorities for this decade, two of the six relate to tackling root causes of non-communicable diseases. In Scotland smoking rates mirror disadvantage, ranging from 32% in our poorest fifth of communities to 6% in our most affluent. Tobacco, which kills one in two consumers when used as intended, continues to claim some 9,300 lives each year. Beyond this pandemic is an urgent need for action this year to tackle Scotland’s biggest killers. ASH Scotland has joined BHF, AFS, OAS and others to launch an NCD prevention manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections. We share the hope expressed by the WHO Director General in his new year’s message ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there by taking the path together’.