Although they have existed across the ages and throughout the world, we are living in the heyday of conspiracy theories. The Covid-19 pandemic spawned a multitude of them, as has every other current crisis.

In the media and popular imagination, conspiracies have three basic characteristics. They are hidden and evolve sub rosa. They create and magnify Us vs Them animosities and conflicts. Most of all, conspiracies are seen as having a malicious intent. In the modern world, Conspiracy = Bad.

And yet.

That equation is too simplistic. No one would describe the coordinated, multinational efforts to rescue and assist the survivors of the terrible earthquakes in Turkey and Syria to be a "conspiracy".

The recent experiences of the venerable charity, the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland (QNIS) suggests a remarkably different, positive version of "conspiracy" – one closer to the original, more neutral, Latin term conspirare.

Two years ago, QNIS received seed money grants from Cattanach and The National Lottery Community Fund (Scotland) to sow and grow Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives (HPBL). Hosting HPBL has now shifted to Cattanach.

There is no conspiracy against this initiative. No evil plot seeking Unhealthy Pregnancies, Worse Lives. However, no conspiracy was required to create societies in which there are so many unwelcome pregnancy and birth outcomes as well as so few preventable harms actually being prevented.

No conspiracy is needed when simply continuing the status quo compromises the lives of this generation’s parents and the life chances of the next generation of children.

That status quo disregards preconception/interconception health, education and care. It also allows commercial profits – via tobacco, alcohol and other health-harming industries – to trump maximising the health and wellbeing of prospective parents and their future children.

What is needed is a full-bodied, widespread, active conspiracy in favour of Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives. HPBL is reviving an ancient understanding of conspire – and its positive, almost poetic, definition: To Breathe Together As One.

Happily, this constructive conspiracy is already under way. In only two years, the HPBL Coalition has flourished and includes 84 partners – Organisational, Community, Academic, Queen’s Nurses, Individuals and Funders. Eventually, this coalition could spark a movement weaving HPBL into Scotland’s societal fabric.

Remember that 1) prospective parents already deeply desire a safe pregnancy and a thriving baby; 2) Healthier Pregnancies & Better Lives are widely achievable across Scotland; and, 3) While no HPBL Partner can do everything, each can do something to create a better reality.

There are modern precedents. Scotland successfully changed the status quo of being a nation of smoke-filled rooms. Dramatic progress was the consequence of raising awareness, encouraging new attitudes and supporting behaviour change. This is a shining example of a healthy, pro-social conspiracy.

We can do it again. HPBL is a Coalition of DO-ers. All Partners are committed to do something in their own ways in their own spheres of influence. By breathing together as one, they will accomplish more than by working in isolation.

The time is right for this uniquely Scottish, constructive conspiracy.

Dr Jonathan Sher is an Individual Partner in Scotland’s Coalition for Healthier Pregnancies, Better Lives.