One of Wales’s leading housing chiefs has been elected as the new chairman of the tobacco control action charity ASH Wales.
Scott Sanders, CEO of Linc-Cymru Housing Association, has been appointed by the Trustees in recognition of his excellent leadership skills and shared ambition to improve the quality of lives across Wales.
One in five of all Welsh adults still smoke and smoking kills more than 5,000 people in Wales every year. The most deprived and vulnerable in our communities are more likely to smoke and be affected by passive smoking.
Mr Sanders brings 20 years of business experience in the housing and social care sectors to the role and says the connection between housing and health has never been clearer: “Affordable housing plays an important role in providing safe and secure environments from which people can build their lives, but it goes beyond that as everything we do must contribute to people’s health, well-being and prosperity.
“Achieving this will help to reduce the inequality that exists in communities and reduce the correlation between socio-economic status and the prevalence of smoking.”
Smoking has been identified as a leading cause for the gap in mortality rates between the most and least deprived areas of our country.
Chief Executive of ASH Wales, Suzanne Cass, said: “The housing sector in Wales has already made positive steps to improve the health of vulnerable people. ASH Wales are delighted to have a leading figure in this field to help guide our ambitions and strategic path.”
Mr Sanders is passionate about the role the affordable housing sector can play in helping to improve the health and well-being of tenants and believes reducing smoking prevalence is key.
Mr Sanders added: “Welsh Government has set clear expectations for improved well-being and a move from ‘treatment to prevention’ within its strategy ‘Prosperity for All’.
“This is complimented by the Well-being and Future Generations Act that aims to get public bodies to think about the long-term impact of decision making and investment, prevent problems and take a more joined up approach.
“As Chair I am keen to support the reputation that Suzanne has established to be the partner of choice and continue to be known for creating the right type of conversation, significantly influencing the agenda and delivering advocacy to those people not adequately represented.”
Among his achievements, before taking over as CEO of Linc-Cymru, Mr Sanders supported the merger of Newport Housing Trust with Seren Group to create Derwen Cymru, a specialist housing association which is dedicated to improving the lives of older people.
Mr Sanders believes building successful private, public and third sector partnerships is key to reducing health inequalities: “My 20 plus years working in the affordable housing sector has allowed me the opportunity to be involved in housing solutions and services that take advantage of the far larger benefits that arise when housing, social care and health work as one. Delivering cross cutting solutions forms part of my daily work life.”
Mr Sanders went on to say that while moves to reduce smoking prevalence in Wales are encouraging, there is still much work to be done: “The steps taken in Wales to implement tobacco control are positive and have made improvements in health outcomes for those stopping or reducing their nicotine intake and have also helped those affected by second hand smoke.
“Despite the advancements, the cost of smoking to the Welsh NHS specifically, is estimated to be around £302 million per year but could be as high as £436.6 million per year. There is still a long way to go to raise people’s awareness and support them to make positive decisions.”
Latest projections show the national target of 16% smoking prevalence in Wales by 2020 is unlikely to be met until 2025. Additional support and action is needed to drive down smoking rates and decrease take-up.