The real stars of our communities

IN his annual report, director of public health Dr Eric Baijal contrasts the relatively good health across the Borders with the comparitively poor life experience of five commonly recognised areas of disadvantage – Langlee, Bannerfield, Burnfoot, Walkerburn and Eyemouth.

The trends make for interesting (if somewhat demanding) reading on pages 14 and 15, but they should raise few eyebrows among those with any sense of the socio-economic realities of a disjointed society which still has no option but to defer to banks, utility companies and the money markets.

One would not, it has to be said, require to live in one of those five areas to be driven to drink or worse, if only to give ourselves a break from cynical disillusionment and a sense of powerlessness.

It is no great revelation that poor housing, unemployment, benefit dependency, debt and a general loss of hope are not a recipe for healthy living.

What is both revelatory and surprising, however, is the resolve of people, especially in these five areas (which must not in any way be demonised) to change things for the better.

And Dr Baijal justly acknowledges the monumental efforts of the real stars of these communities, galvanised by health professionals, in making a difference: organising lunch clubs, health eating sessions and many other activities to make that “life experience” so much better than it would be in many, perhaps more affluent, but less cohesive communities.

That is not to deny that, despite current economic challenges, the design and delivery of public services must be radically changed to tackle the deep-rooted social problems that persist, not just in the Borders, but across this sceptred isle.