The College has worked to improve public health for nearly 350 years and promotes health and wellbeing for all.


Long-COVID may be the next pandemic that we need to plan for. Office for National Statistics data show that around 1 in 10 people testing positive for COVID-19 exhibited symptoms for a period of 12 weeks or longer. Common long-COVID symptoms include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness and a range of other symptoms. However, there is much that remains unknown about long-COVID, and the response to long-COVID is still in its infancy. It is critical that research and planning to respond to the long-term impact of long-COVID are prioritised.


In 2021, 64% of all adults in England were either obese or overweight, with the figure for Scotland being slightly higher at 66%. The UK has a comparatively worse obesity rate than Germany, Belgium and Japan - but a more favourable rate compared with the USA or Chile. Prevention is both better for patients and more cost-eff­ective than treatment. However, action is also necessary to assist those who are already overweight or obese. The costs of obesity to both the NHS and patients are high, both financially and in terms of avoidable suffering. Being overweight increases the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis, and has the potential to lead to reduced mobility, disability, and social isolation.

It is vital that the public can make informed choices about food. While a balanced diet will help avoid obesity, a poor diet that does not meet recommended dietary requirements and results in overweight/obesity could be described as ‘modern malnutrition’. Preventative measures such as reduced food portion or pack sizes must be considered along with policies such as the sugary drinks tax.

The College supports fully embedding physical activity for health into primary care, secondary care, social care and health education, as well as in the health and social care workforce and workplace. This includes ensuring secondary care staff provide guidance on the recommended minimum levels of physical activity for health, offer brief advice and brief intervention, and signpost to community resources fully supporting the aims of the Health Promoting Health Service.

Physical activity

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ expert group on physical activity has produced a series of infographics to encourage physical activity in adults and older adults, children and young adults (5-18 years old), and very young children (birth-5 years old).  These tools are designed to help highlight the importance of physical activity and why it’s important to be active.


Problems associated with alcohol continue to be a challenge for the NHS. We agree with other health organisations that the alcohol industry should have a reduced role in the formulation of alcohol policies to help ensure public health remains the priority. The alcohol industry should be strongly encouraged to contribute to the reduction of alcohol harm by sharing knowledge of sales patterns and marketing influence.

The College established Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), through which we continue to advocate for the implementation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) in Scotland.


While the number of cigarette smokers is falling, people still die every day of tobacco-related illnesses. After initially setting up ASH Scotland in 1973 we are a member of the Scottish Coalition on Tobacco and supporter of Scotland's Charter for a Tobacco-Free Generation.


There are currently significant differences (of up to 20 years) in life expectancy between the most affluent and the most deprived areas of Scotland. Research over the years, from the Black Report to Prof Sir Michael Marmot’s Institute of Health Equity, has consistently shown that it is vital that action is taken to improve the social and economic conditions in which people live. The College is committed to working with other organisations and professional bodies to embed action on the social determinants of health across the workforce.

Drug-related deaths

On 15 December 2020, the National Records of Scotland reported that the number of drug-related deaths recorded in Scotland was 1,264 during 2019, a rise of 6% on 2018, when 1,187 drug related deaths were recorded1. The 6% increase was no surprise to many experts, some of whom had previously warned of an expected rise in drug-related deaths for 2019. However, more significantly, the figures for 2018 – released in July 2019 – were 27% higher than the previous year (2017), and the highest at the time since records began in 1996. The College is calling for urgent action and produced a report on the topic in February 2021.