Men in Dundee have the second lowest level of life expectancy in Scotland, according to new figures published last week.
Covid shouldered much of the blame for a 17-week drop in life expectancy for males and six weeks for females.
Levels are at the lowest since 1980.
Newspaper columnists have been likening Britain’s current tribulations to the winter of discontent in 1979-79.
And here in Dundee it might be fair to ask if nothing has changed in 40 years.
But it has.
While it’s true the landscape of Dundee is still scarred by de-industrialisation and deprivation, we are not facing anything like the chill of 1979.
In fact, we reflect a national picture: Record-breaking wage inflation and job vacancies against an overdue drop in unemployment.
Are there challenges? Yes, but let us also not overlook the transformative networks breathing life into the lungs of our city.
Dundee Bairns has changed lives
This week, I attended my last board meeting as a trustee of Dundee Bairns – one of our finest local charities.
In 2016, when most sensible people would be making their way to the golf course, the newly retired former chief executive of Dundee City Council – David Dorward – was cooking up his next venture.
Inspired by child food insecurity expert Lindsay Graham, David corralled some of his former council colleagues and together they set about turning a vision – that no child in Dundee should go hungry – into a reality.
Since securing charitable status in 2017, Dundee Bairns has been a staple in the diet of children in less well-off parts of the city, providing meals to schools prepared in advance by Tayside Contracts.
21,000 meals delivered over the summer – what a great summer it was too! https://t.co/cAklAJ4wfS
— Dundee Bairns (@DundeeBairns) August 16, 2021
Last August, it announced the provision of its 300,000th meal in four years.
The charity delivered 60,000 lunches and 70,000 meals for families during the 18 weeks of lockdown in 2020.
An evaluation report on Dundee Bairns, published this month by Dr John McKendrick at Glasgow Caledonian University, hails the unique nature of this city.
“The success of such a model is dependent on strong community connections, ready access to sufficient provisions and leadership,” he says.
On city-wide partnership working, he adds: “It may be more difficult to meet the conditions necessary for success in larger areas, or ones in which a sense of shared purpose and local orientation is weaker.”
Our city is changing
It’s just one success story too.
While our city has historically topped European tables for drug deaths, underage pregnancy and concentrated unemployment, there is a commercial and charitable regeneration under way.
I recall when Channel 4 visited Dundee to film Secret Millionaire in 2009.
Locals were livid at the depiction of their city which showed Hilltown children playing on broken glass.
But the concrete where that glass lay became the foundation for my children’s school and several beautiful new homes now being populated by previously displaced families.
As one volunteer told me at the time: “Dain’ this joab meks the hert fehr proud.”
I thank God for the many change-makers we have in our city.