Ministers in Scotland have opted to set a wider range of national targets than England's in the battle to improve public health.

The Scottish public health green paper, Working Together for a Healthier Scotland, was published last week amid public health consultants' concerns that there may not be enough doctors to tackle its ambitious agenda.

The paper proposes setting health outcome targets in five areas: coronary heart disease and stroke, cancer, teenage pregnancy, dental and oral health and accidents.

This is in contrast to the four national priority areas recommended in the English green paper, Our Healthier Nation, which do not include targets for cutting teenage pregnancies or for dental and oral health but propose an additional national target for mental health.

Scottish ministers are also keen on setting national lifestyle targets covering smoking, alcohol misuse, diet and exercise.

Views will be sought on whether there should be targets in the mental health, HIV/AIDS and drug misuse fields.

Like its English counterpart, the Scottish green paper pledges to address the socio-economic factors which can contribute to ill-health but are largely outside people's control.

Within each of the main 'illness' priorities, tackling inequalities will be the first challenge, it states, although there are no specific targets for reducing health inequalities.

The British Medical Association in Scotland said that it welcomed the general thrust of the paper.

George Venters, chair of the BMA's public health medicine committee, said he applauded the courage of ministers in acknowledging the effect of poverty, unemployment and poor housing on ill-health.

But he warned there may be too few public health doctors to participate fully in the work, claiming that their number had been cut by a third over the last decade.

He said: 'The number of public health doctors in employment has been declining as some health boards attempt to reduce management costs in line with government policy.

'Unlike England, where public health doctors have now been excluded from management costs, their counterparts in Scotland have not yet been removed from the calculation.'

The paper recommends that public health directors should be co-opted onto appropriate local government committees to help them assess the impact of local policies.

Working Together for a Healthier Scotland: a consultation paper. The Stationery Office. pounds7.50.

See News, page 9.