When researchers from two Scottish universities spoke to an ex-miner, John, from Cumnock, they were struck by the extent to which he saw politics framing the health of local people.

He told them about the collapse of the mining industry and the subsequent double whammy as the textile industry - which had helped the wives of many miners get by - also succumbed to job losses and closures a couple of years later.

Then he told them of his subsequent work, guarding a National Coal Board site from the freezing top of a bing, to prevent the same men and women he'd stood on picket lines with from stealing remnants of coal.

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The politics of it all did not escape him. He felt surplus to the requirements of politicians, now, he said.

"I’ve heated their bums wae coal…we’ve served wur cause. If they could dae away wae you noo, they would dae away wae you, because you’re a drain on society."

He also told the researchers from Glasgow University and the University of the West of Scotland, in collaboration with Oxfam: "They want me, noo, to work til I’m 67. I’ve no chance of working to I’m 67. I’ll no’ see 67".

His story impressed the academics - I know because their report featured it at length, and both lead researchers mentioned it to me when I spoke to them. It crystallises their thesis that simple economic circumstances have a much greater influence on illness in deprived communities than we like to admit.

The conclusion is that without any meaningful attempt to change people's financial situation, quit smoking campaigns and drives to get people to cut down on their drinking have minimal impact. We won't make major inroads on Scottish excess mortality rates that way.

Yet public policy often reverts to such methods, then despairs of the ability of people in working class communities to change their habits.

There are initiatives which do try to make a more fundamental impact, of course. The Scottish Government's £8.25 living wage for care workers from October will improve circumstances for many in that industry. And Shelter Scotland is currently urging health and social care workers to spot fuel poverty and refer households for the help that is already there.

But researchers believe communities need to be allowed to help dictate the ways public money is used, to help overcome the short-termism inherent in the political cycle, and the 'lifestyle drift' which seems to make every health programme come down to exhortations for the poor to change their behaviour.