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Duncan Selbie's Friday message – 23 June 2017

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Dear everyone

First, I would like to warmly welcome the new minister for public health and primary care, Stephen Brine MP, and very much look forward to working with him.

The tragic loss of life in the Grenfell Tower fire has involved a number of our teams in providing support in the immediate aftermath – particularly those working in our Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards and the London health protection team. I know this has been an extraordinarily upsetting time for everyone involved and I want to acknowledge this and say thank you.

Driving change with evidence was the opening theme for this year’s impressive annual conference of the Faculty of Public Health, this week held in Telford. Along with me, Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer of Wales, Gill Leng, Deputy Chief Executive at NICE and Dame Anne Johnson, Head of Division of Population Health at University College London, spoke to the importance of evidence in informing public policy, but crucially also of the need to have popular support – and why one without the other is not sufficient. Good strides in public policy aimed at improving the health of the people have been made over the decades, and not least in recent years on tobacco control and on child obesity, and we have much to build on and to do as a public health family in turning these policy opportunities into practice on the ground and especially in tackling variation. Many examples of this were showcased at the conference.

This week’s Queen’s Speech reaffirmed the importance of economic development through the new Industrial Strategy, increasing the National Living Wage, promoting fairness and transparency in the housing market and reducing energy bills, all of which speak to health and wealth as two sides of the same coin, i.e. having a reason to get up in the morning, something meaningful to do – most importantly a decent job – and having enough money and a warm home, all fundamental to good health and economic prosperity. Economic prosperity enjoyed by local people, creating jobs that local people can get. This is the agenda not only for national government but of course also for local government and we will continue to speak to the importance of making the connection between income and outcome and the very many ways in which government at all levels can act to close the health gap – a key component of the Prime Minister’s wider plans to tackle social injustice.

Good health is about what matters to people, and not just what’s the matter with them. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the arts and culture space, where the evidence on the impact of the arts on health and wellbeing continues to grow. Almost 500 delegates from 22 countries attended this year’s Culture, Health and Wellbeing International Conference in Bristol, where I was honoured to give the opening address on Monday. A parliamentary enquiry into art, health and wellbeing is due to publish soon following an extensive review of the evidence on the contribution that the arts make to health and wellbeing. Do look out for it.

Swimming is one of the country’s most popular sports, and according to an independent report commissioned by Swim England and published on Wednesday, it provides a number of benefits for health and wellbeing for people of all ages. While more research is required, the report highlights how the unique properties of water make it an accessible activity for all, and its popularity creates a clear opportunity to harness the public’s passion for swimming as another way to help more people get more exercise.

PHE and the Local Government Association (LGA) have published a resource today to support local authorities in identifying and meeting the public health needs of the armed forces in England, coinciding with Armed Forces Day on Saturday. It explains how organisations can work together to improve the health of the serving armed forces and their families, and is a result of collaboration with local authorities, the Defence Medical Services, the Ministry of Defence and the wider NHS.

With best wishes,

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

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