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A new strategy to shape digital public health

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Digital

Public Health England now has its first digital strategy.

We hope it will start a conversation with our partners across national and local government, the NHS, the voluntary and community sector, the scientific and academic community and industry, as well as amongst our staff.

It's important because it sets out how we can respond to the increasing impact digital technology is having on public health and on our every day lives, including our health and well being.

Digital public health is a re-imagining of public health using new ways of working, blending established public health wisdom with new digital concepts and tools.

This is a journey we are all on – to understand how this developing technology works and the opportunities it will bring.

Highlights of the strategy are:

  • A description of how we will work together across government, with our partners and internally
  • An outline of our approach to digital “platforms”
  • A framework for the various ways in which we can approach digital work in public health. There are many options including advocacy, partnership and setting standards
  • A digital public health maturity index which can be used to think about where you or your teams are in digital awareness, practice and skill set
  • The actions we will be taking in 2017/18 across PHE and beyond.

There is a real opportunity now to shape and develop digital public health and for those who are new to this topic, do not underestimate how big a shift is coming.

One of my favourite sayings at the moment is; “I have never seen the world move as fast as it does now… and it will never be as slow as this again.”

But do not be dismayed either. Public health folks are resilient and these new ways of working using digital technology are very much in tune with public health practice, understanding users and using data to create change.

If you are new to this - all it takes is a step at a time and my best advice is to start somewhere. As part of my learning I wrote an A-Z of digital public health and this will give you a useful introduction.

For those who are already on this change journey, who are leading digital projects and creating new models of public health, please do share examples of your leadership with us.

This strategy will evolve - we will build on it and add sections later as needed.

Please do add your comments and suggestions below. What is useful about this strategy? What is missing? What would you like to see next?

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  1. Comment by Ian Oakley posted on

    Well done for all your hard work!

    • Replies to Ian Oakley>

      Comment by Dr Mary E Black posted on

      Thanks Ian - the real work lies ahead!

  2. Comment by Tom Mnahoncak posted on

    Information and Communicaton advanced are not here simply to try and enhance life of a patient. It is also improving how those involved work and enables them to be more effective and productive. One of the technology that is slowly embraced is CCTV. Very effective but need ethical approach.

    • Replies to Tom Mnahoncak>

      Comment by Mary E Black posted on

      Yes, CCTV is a tricky area.

      I think a really interesting area is the Internet of Things. Medical devices are increasingly connected to each other and to our mobile phones. Many development in healthcare are in this area. This includes wearable devices where people can monitor their own health, activity, heart rate, blood sugar levels etc.

      Expect many more developments in this area and each one will raise new issues to discuss around privacy, access and data sharing.

  3. Comment by Liz ROBINSON posted on

    Would like to see PHE carry out a review of the evidence relating to agile working in the workplace and the psychological impact on staff. Increased choice and control? Or loss of social relationships and support. Now seen by UK employers as efficient and productive, but rejected by other countries due to negative impact on staff wellbeing and team working.

    • Replies to Liz ROBINSON>

      Comment by Mary E Black posted on

      Thanks Liz. Agile working in the workplace and how it works in practice is a broad question. Agile is about designing something and changing it in iteration, so it works really well for designing a piece of software, or a technical tool, and it is also very close to an approach we use in quality improvement in health care where you look at how to examine an issue, make a change, see if it works and try again.

      If you know you have to build a bridge to a certain design, where all the factors are well know and you have an exact plan, then an agile approach would not be helpful.

      How it is applied is another thing - I have seen teams using Agile approaches who are very happy, and others who are not. Dont think that lies with the approach, but with the way it is applied. Same as with any approach.

      Related topics are matrix management - which needs very good leadership and communication. There are also useful discussions to be had around outsourcing and using people as remote 'widgets' to deliver part of a larger project, or applying flexible working hours that mean people have less control over their person lives.