CATHY McCormack, an anti-poverty campaigner from Easterhouse, first made the link between poor housing and health as a young mother. "I brought my babies home from hospital and they were bouncing with health," she recalled. "And though they were breastfed they started to get sick all the time. The health visitor couldn't understand it."

In those days, she said, she was told simply to wash the black mould off the walls, which she did on a regular basis, going to war with the various fungi that sprouted all over the damp bedrooms where the family slept. "We didn't understand the damaging effect of the spores and the way they colonise your lungs," she said.

She started to make the link between health and living conditions and worked alongside researchers and United Nations experts, as she campaigned for better housing in her community. In 1992 the former-factory worker was involved in establishing the Scottish Public Health Alliance, a pressure group set up to push for health initiatives to address the poor health not only of Glaswegians, but of oppressed people all over the world.

The new report into the systemic and political causes affecting the health of Glaswegians have left her "heart-broken" she told the Sunday Herald and made her angry that she had to sacrifice so much to fight what she describes as "a war against the poor". In 2005 McCormack, who is now in her early sixties, was diagnosed with chronic lung disease and in January this year suffered a heart attack.

"I just can't believe that people have been so demonised," she said. "It's hard enough being poor without being blamed for it. There has been a lot of emphasis on people's health being affected by smoking and drinking. But when you've been born into poverty and oppression you're immune system is rundown. Amongst all this talk about jogging and brown bread we need to remember that this issue is really about public health. That's what this report shows and it can be easy to forget."

McCormack, who in 2009 wrote about her life as a global anti-poverty campaigner in the Wee Yellow Butterfly, was brought up in a freezing and damp tenement flat in the rundown area of Cranhill and caught pneumonia when she was just one-year-old.

She still lives in Easterhouse where she brought-up her own three children – one of Glasgow's most infamous housing estates in the east of the city, where Iain Duncan Smith once claimed to be moved to help transform life for the UK's poorest people.

"Easterhouse has indeed been transformed," said McCormack. "But what has happened has changed the image and not the reality for people. When I was bringing up my children here getting food on the table was a daily struggle but I never thought I'd live to see a situation like this where benefit sanctions make it almost impossible for people to survive. There is just so much suffering. I always try to be positive but I'm so frustrated by this."