Joint public health initiative to help address ‘root causes of crime’

Police Scotland is working with Public Health Scotland to drive improvements in public health, which it believes will help to address “the root causes of crime”.

Jul 21, 2021
By Paul Jacques
Launch of the new collaboration framework at the Scottish Police College with Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr (centre).

Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said many of the factors that contribute to poor health and health inequalities are the same as those which contribute to the risk of offending.

The ‘strategic collaboration’ is first joint approach of its kind in Scotland to tackle public health and wellbeing in communities across the country.

“I truly believe that an improvement in the wider public health of Scotland we can reduce the likelihood of people becoming entrenched in the criminal justice system, improving their life chances and creating safer communities, while also protecting vulnerable people at risk of falling into criminality or becoming a victim,” said Mr Kerr.

The first meeting of the joint executives took place at the Scottish Police College, Tulliallan on Tuesday (July 20).

Led by Mr Kerr and Public Health Scotland’s chief executive Angela Leitch, the meeting set out the key priorities for the collaboration, with a specific focus on mental health and wellbeing, supporting local systems, data and analysis.

The role of public health in policing was on the agenda, with inputs relating to the impact of mental health and wellbeing issues on the two organisations. The public health approaches to addressing societal issues through partnership working were also discussed.

A case study highlighted the importance of supporting local systems, drawing on experience in the Greater Glasgow area, while the importance of “collating and interrogating data” to provide an evidence base was also stressed.

The two organisations will be implementing a ‘learning exchange’ as part of the collaborative framework with an initial focus on transformation and change, learning from the creation of Police Scotland from its eight legacy forces and national resources.

Mr Kerr said: “Many of the factors which contribute to poor health and health inequalities such as housing education, work and income, are the same as those which contribute to the risk of offending, reoffending and becoming a victim of crime.

“This can include childhood trauma experiences, poor educational opportunities and achievement and low household income.

“By working together to address these inequalities, can help to address the root causes of crime, safeguard vulnerable people in our communities and reduce the chance of becoming a victim of crime.”

He added: “Strengthening and renewing the collaborations between policing and public health will contribute to building stronger foundations for our communities to thrive and help to deliver the shared outcomes of Police Scotland and Public Health Scotland.”

Ms Leitch, said: “Together with Police Scotland we are working to address the significant health challenges that Scotland faces. Our partnership framework has therefore been developed to turn our shared vision and purpose into tangible actions – actions that will make a real difference to people’s lives.

“Our existing partnership work already demonstrates the power and potential of this joint public health approach. The ongoing pilot of police officers carrying Naloxone nasal sprays to help people experiencing a suspected overdose, and our work to provide agencies in local communities with real-time data on suspected drug-related deaths and suspected suicides, are examples of how we are having a greater impact on population health and wellbeing”.

A ‘delivery group’ for the collaboration has been set up which will meet regularly to assess progress on the shared aims and outcomes for the project, while seeking to maximise its impact for both organisations.

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