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Duncan Selbie's Friday message – 10 March

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Dear everyone

We warmly welcome the Chancellor’s confirmation on Wednesday of how the levy on sugary drinks will operate in practice from 2018.

This is really ground-breaking legislation, which is already leading to reformulation by sugary drinks providers with more expected to follow – a good early result from the childhood obesity plan.

Yesterday the Public Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood, in her speech at the Local Government Association /Association of Directors of Public Health annual Public Health Conference reiterated the Government’s commitment to the move of the ring-fenced public health grant to 100% business rate retention.

This will come into effect from April 2019, with the ring-fence grant continued until then, giving time to think through and agree the assurance arrangements that will replace my role as accounting officer to Parliament.

We will fully engage with local government on this and I want to thank them again for embracing their statutory duty to improve people’s health with creativity and determination, and I am certain this will only get stronger over time.

Also on Thursday, the LGA published Maintaining our momentum: Essays on four years of public health, which relates a number of different perspectives, from national to local, of those working across the system since the transfer of public health to local government in 2013. Well worth a read.

On Tuesday, the Office of National Statistics published new statistics on adult smoking habits in the UK, produced jointly with PHE. The data shows that from 2010 to 2015, smoking became less common across all ages in the UK, with the largest decrease among 18 to 24 year olds.

Average cigarette consumption among smokers has reduced to the lowest level since 1974, and half of the 2.3 million people who used e-cigarettes in 2015 used them as a means to quit smoking.

It is encouraging to see fewer adults smoking and those who do smoke, smoking less. Even more encouraging is that fewer young people have taken up smoking than ever before.

However, smoking prevalence is markedly higher amongst people who earn less than £10,000 a year or are not in employment and getting as much help to them as possible to quit smoking should be a priority for all of us working to improve people’s health.

On the same day we published the 2017 Child Health Profiles, which provide a snapshot of child health and wellbeing for each local authority in England in an easily accessible format. I hope that local public health teams and NHS commissioners will find them helpful in identifying and addressing local concerns, from MMR immunisation rates and levels of childhood obesity, to teenage pregnancy and youth crime.

Also on Tuesday we held the inaugural PHE Quality Awards, celebrating quality, improvement, innovation and effectiveness. People from across the Agency came together to learn from each other and share knowledge, and my congratulations go to the four winners, 16 finalists and 84 nominees across our four award categories. You can take a look at people’s reactions to the day on Twitter using the hashtag #QIIE2017. This was a real showcase of excellence at PHE and demonstrates our progress in making quality everybody’s business.

With best wishes,

Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK

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