The Healthy Scotland Convention

I was appointed by the Scottish Executive as Managing Contractor of the Healthy Scotland Convention 2001 (HSC 2001), a participative one-day conference, held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre for over 300 key players from the health sector, national and local government, and representatives from other public, private and voluntary sectors throughout Scotland to exchange information, experience and ideas on improving Scotland’s health.

The programme was facilitated by me and my associates, and featured presentations from Scottish Ministers, the Scottish Executive’s Health Department, the NHS in Scotland, the World Health Organisation, the Public Health Institute for Scotland, the Health Development Agency of England, and the Community Development and Health Network of Northern Ireland.

Supporting the step-change through policy – Malcolm Chisholm MSP, Depute Minister for Health & Community Care

The approach and facilitative style chosen for HSC 2001 was positive and participative.  Appreciative Inquiry (AI) processes were used.  AI is an organisational development tool, which challenges the problem-solving approach to the management of change.  The traditional approach to change looks at what is not working, tries to diagnose problems and find solutions.  The focus is fragmented and on what is wrong.  Appreciative Inquiry only engages with what works — what is going well and about which there is enough positive motivation to make it even better.  The focus is on the whole system — everyone who affects and is affected by the issues under discussion — and is wholly positive.  Further information on the process in my blog on Appreciate Inquiry.

Every day in Scotland, those who are concerned with health and wellbeing are aware that some things work, and work well.  The tangible results of HSC 2001 are findings that describe where Scotland wants to be in terms of its public health achievement, based on the best of where it already is and has been.  The methodology was based on storytelling — people telling their stories to each other, and discovering that other people feel the same about what they want for Scotland’s health in the future.

The Healthy Scotland Convention 2001

The programme

The programme divided the day into four sessions.  Session 1 presented plenary presentations on:

  • The need for a step-change in Scotland’s health from Prof. Phil Hanlon, Director of the Public Health Institute for Scotland
  • Supporting the step-change through policy from Malcolm Chisholm MSP, Depute Minister for Health & Community Care (in the absence of the Minister, who was indisposed), and
  • Perspectives on what a step-change means… in Europe from Dr. Marc Danzon, Director for Europe of the World Health Organisation
  • …in England from Yve Buckland, Chair of the Health Development Agency
  • in Northern Ireland from Ruth Sutherland, Director of the Community Development and Health Network.

Session 2, after coffee, allowed participants sitting at tables of ten grouped in NHS Trust Areas to consider:

  • What is happening in Scotland in comparison to the experience, practice and vision elsewhere?
  • What is going well and what challenges remain?
  • What would a step-change in health look like?
  • What should we do now to make a real difference?

The Healthy Scotland Convention 2001

Session 3, after lunch, allowed participants to attend two rounds of Open Space discussions of their choice on, firstly:

Lifestyles and priority health topics

  • Diet
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Physical Activity
  • Accidents and Safety
  • Oral and Dental Health
  • Sexual Health
  • Mental Health
  • Child Health
  • The Big 3 — Cancer, Heart Disease and Stroke

followed by:

Life circumstances and delivery mechanisms

  • Social Inclusion
  • Supporting Families
  • Better Housing
  • Community Care
  • Employment and Training
  • Environment, Transport and Regeneration
  • Tackling Crime
  • Media
  • Community Planning Partnerships
  • Public Health Information
  • Young People’s Health — Schools, ‘Walk the Talk’, etc.
  • Health in the Workplace
  • Healthy Living Centres

Participants signed up to attend these sessions over the lunchbreak, and sessions were doubled or cancelled, depending on demand.  The session on Mental Health was doubled, and the session on Better Housing was cancelled.

The Open Space format was designed to allow participants maximum freedom to discuss whatever aspects of these topics were of interest with whoever was interested in participating in the discussion.  Participants were encouraged to visit other sessions, particularly if they found that they were not contributing to, or benefitting from, any session.

At the specific request of the Minister, each session was moderated by a member of the Scottish Executive staff to ensure that the discussions were relevant to their theme, and to input information on the topic under discussion from the White Paper Towards a Healthier Scotland.

Most sessions also featured discussants, who were able to illustrate the topics with examples of recent accredited good practice in their organisation or area of expertise.

The Healthy Scotland Convention 2001

HSC 2001: Signing up for the Open Space sessions

Session 4, after tea, returned to area-based tables of ten to allow participants to imagine:

  • that they have the power and resources to achieve a step-change in Scotland’s health
  • what they would do, personally
  • what would their organisation do
  • what they would do with other organisations in their area
  • what further help and support they would want from the Scottish Executive.

The programme then featured an address, originally scheduled for earlier in the day, on Health and Social Justice: Twin Priorities from Jackie Baillie MSP, Minister for Social Justice, and concluded with an address on Achieving a step-change starting NOW from Trevor Jones, Head of the Scottish Executive’s Health Department and Chief Executive, NHS in Scotland.

The Healthy Scotland Convention 2001

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