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Continuing the role of public health observatories

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A single knowledge and intelligence service, Chief Knowledge Officer

On 1 April 2013 the regional Public Health Observatories (PHOs) transferred along with the specialist observatories and the National Cancer Intelligence Network into PHE as a single Knowledge and Intelligence service for England.  It was, and still is, a momentous challenge to make this change but the potential benefit in bringing this expertise together is hugely significant.

We are building on the work of these highly regarded existing organisations and teams to develop world class population health intelligence for the local public health system, PHE, and both national and international partners . The new, more collaborative approach can only be a positive step for the use and sharing of evidence to affect outcomes and inspire interventions that will make a difference to public health now and in the future.

The historical role of the PHOs (now the eight Knowledge and Intelligence teams across the country) remains fundamentally unchanged by this transition, although the context in which they are working is now very different.  Locally, the teams are providing a tailored knowledge service to local authorities, both directly and through PHE centres, to meet local needs. Nationally, the division is coordinating the creation of new intelligence networks for cardiovascular disease, end of life care, mental health, and children, young people and maternity to improve data, intelligence, evidence and best practice. It is also building topic expertise in behavioural risk factors and wider determinants of health and developing a range of tools and models, including return on investment and large scale modelling.  Their role is crucial to PHE's mission.

A knowledge strategy has been written to support the whole public health system to ensure that decisions we make about our health, and the health of the population, are based on the best information available and will deliver the best outcomes.  Our consultation, Knowledge and Intelligence: harnessing the power of information to improve the public’s health is currently live on our website and we would love to hear from our partners and anyone with an interest in public health.  The final  strategy will have a direct impact on how we implement services, tools and knowledge to the wider public health system.

It’s now been over 200 days since the birth of Public Health England and yet it still seems as if we are still closer to the start than the finish of this exciting journey.  This amount of change is going to take time and a great deal of work which we can only undertake with the help of our partners both within government and outside.  With that help I am sure we can achieve the best possible outcome – England and the UK can be world leaders in knowledge, intelligence and evidence based approaches to tackling public health.

I'm extremely optimistic about the role knowledge and intelligence will play in the future of public health in the UK, and remain incredibly grateful for the ongoing support from our staff and the wider public health community in helping to achieve this ambitious goal.

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