Contribution to health and wellbeing


Pg 13 The Place, Alness

The Place Youth Club, Alness

Gregor Smith, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government, believes youth work is an essential part of the preventative agenda.

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo RBS Conference Centre 27 January 2016 Programme #YWExpo Picture: Alan Rennie

Early in 2016, I attended the Youth Work Expo to talk about the contribution youth work makes to health and wellbeing in Scotland. I heard a wide range of people talk about their experience and how it had made a difference to their lives; it was impressive stuff.

My role as DCMO includes shaping the direction of Scotland’s future health policies and leading medical and public health professionals in driving forward improvements to ensure a health service fit to meet the challenges of the future.

The CMO launched her first Annual Report in February 2016 with a call for a debate with doctors on how we can improve shared decision-making; ensure we deliver person-centred care; reduce unnecessary variation in treatment and outcomes; as well as reduce harm and waste (including over-treatment) for the people doctors treat.

Doctors are well placed to help provide these answers but they are not the only ones who can help the health and wellbeing agenda. For the NHS to be an organisation which realises its potential – not just to treat illness – it must also promote health and wellbeing as a means of preventing illness.

Youth work has a key role in that: by building communities who can take interest in others’ health and wellbeing, encouraging healthy choices and promoting health improvement.

Scotland is now in the midst of challenges brought about by a growing and increasingly elderly population with more complex illness. Youth work has a key role to play in turning this around – it needs to act as a role model, continuing to display all the kinds of behaviours it is so respected for. With your support there are so many advances youth work can make in population health,particularly for young people.

If there is scepticism from parts of the health and social care system about why we should spend so much time trying to get the health and wellbeing of the child right, then the impact of dealing with the physical and psychological fallout of poor health is a very sound argument for this policy approach.

Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder and nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.

There is still a huge stigma around mental health which means children and young people are not getting the support they need. So many of the organisations who deliver youth work deliver benefits by:

  • helping young people engage, overcome barriers and build their social interaction skills including inter-generationally.
  • building communities of support and providing the links to employment and positive volunteering opportunities as part of that community structure.

A child brought up in a stable and nurtured environment is better placed to succeed in life than a child from a less secure background. For many young people that stability is not there and youth work can and does make a suitable intervention that can prevent impacts to health and wellbeing.

W: | Tw: @ DrGregorSmith

Gregor Smith’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here:


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