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Wellbeing: How do we know what works?

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the announcement of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. I'm delighted that Public Health England is playing a major role in the setting up of this independent national centre, the first of its kind in the world.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is the latest addition to the What Works network, which was launched by the Government last year to improve public services through evidence-based policy and practice.

The centre will help to bring together and improve the evidence base on wellbeing, including mental health, and turn it into practical usable guidance for decision makers. For example directors of public health, health and wellbeing boards, employers, charities, communities and policy makers.

We know there are several successful initiatives already established that have improved wellbeing, such as:

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will help us to understand which interventions work and which don’t, and what we can do in collaboration with our partners to implement these interventions at a local level. I'm confident that this centre will lead to better outcomes for health in communities, workplaces and more widely.

So how will this centre help the work of PHE? Well, one of our biggest challenges is to improve the wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable and may already be on the wrong side of health inequalities. The root causes of many health problems are embedded in our society, the environment we live in and the food supply and are also influenced by our behaviours and psycho-social factors, such as stress.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will help us address these issues by focusing research and evaluation on interventions that tackle inequalities, and by working with a range of local and community partners.

We're delighted to be hosting the development team for the centre and are one of several partners providing funding towards it.

Initially funding will be provided to three strands; work and learning, community and arts, culture and sport. We will be communicating the findings of the centre to key stakeholders in local areas, local government, health and wellbeing boards, voluntary and community sector and business partners.

The centre will also help us to  strengthen our information and intelligence function and influence the NHS in its commissioning of wellbeing public health services that work.

For our partners in the diverse and cross cutting world of wellbeing, the development of this centre is very positive as it will help support public health responsibilities at local level, by local authorities. This is an opportunity to help address some of the wider determinants of wellbeing such as housing, employment, education, culture, art, sport, leisure and recreation.

The centre will also help public health practitioners in their unique role to champion quality, effectiveness and health impact, while keeping the focus on population health and health equity. And it will help to empower the population to understand what they can do for their own health and wellbeing.

For the first time England has a national public health agency which brings together a focus on protecting and improving the nation’s health. We see that having a focus on wellbeing will help us tackle and monitor infectious diseases and tackle key health challenges, so we are excited to support the development of this centre as it will help to better understand and deliver improved wellbeing for everyone.

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