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Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 14 July 2017

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Dear everyone

We are a healthy nation and we are living longer and in better health. We are incredibly fortunate to have dynamic local Government leaders, with relentlessly hardworking teams and an unrivalled health system in the NHS. We have achieved so much to be proud of, yet we are still faced with the fact that benefiting from more years in good health is not something shared equally across society.

Yesterday, we published our first Health Profile for England, bringing together the wealth of population data that we and our partners collect to give a broad picture of the health of people in England today. We’ve also published an easy-to-read blog, outlining the 10 key messages. A big part of our role at PHE is to provide evidence and interpret data, and while this report captures and showcases what we know in a novel way, it also makes plain that health inequalities remain a major theme. As the new report shows, people in the richest areas of the country are enjoying nearly 20 more years in good health than those living in the poorest.

The Health Profile for England reinforces that good public health is influenced by much more than healthcare alone. Health and wellbeing for individuals is greatly increased by having a job, having a roof over your head, being part of a community and receiving and giving support to people you care for and about. We want this to be used as a reference point when policymakers are thinking about the broader impacts on health of public policy across government both local and national, the NHS, employers and the voluntary and third sector. Going forward, we want to work with policy makers, decision makers and practitioners to reach more people, particularly those who are vulnerable, with the interventions that are going to enable them to live healthier and longer lives. I do hope you find this inspiring and concerning in equal order and that you help PHE improve the product for future years.

Published today is the Government’s new Drugs Strategy, strongly informed by our comprehensive Drugs Evidence Review, published in January this year. It again emphasises the importance for vulnerable people of having a decent job and housing, along with treatment, as being key to a sustained recovery. In addition, it recognises the need for all parts of the health and social care system to work together to improve drug users’ physical and mental health - often badly damaged by long term use.

Drug misuse is a complex issue that does not happen in isolation. The strategy's focus on the close partnerships that are needed to create positive change is timely and it gives a clear leadership role to local authorities on the drug prevention and treatment agenda, and PHE will provide help and support in implementing it.

This week we published a resource that looks at ways to assist local government both in reducing children and young people’s risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and intervening when it does happen. With the support of the Association of Directors of Public Health and the Children’s Commissioner for England we have set out the evidence and produced a framework through which three key local actions can be taken: lead, understand and act. Please do have a look at this.

Another factor affecting your health is the natural and built environment. Working with the University of the West of England, PHE has produced a series of infographics summarising the quality and strength of the evidence concentrating on five key built environment topics, including: neighbourhood design, housing, access to healthier food, natural and sustainable environment, and transport.  Spatial Planning for Health: An evidence resource, is a practical summary for use by local planners, public health teams and local communities to help them develop Local Plans and deliver building projects on the ground which demonstrate the links between good design and health.

And finally, on Wednesday evening at Colindale, our scientific campus in North London, a ceremony took place for the first graduates of our employment programme for people with a learning disability and/or who are on the autism spectrum, called Project SEARCH. The average employment rate for individuals aged 18–24 with a learning disability in the UK is just 7%, but for those involved in Project SEARCH, this rises to 65%. I met the students, their families and their PHE mentors during a moving evening, which saw our students leave us with 800 hours under their belt of meaningful work experience, more employability and a BTEC Entry Level Award and Certificate in Work Skills and I could not be more proud of them and our staff. The students will continue to get support from Project SEARCH to move into mainstream employment and we look forward to hearing about their success and welcoming the next class in September.

With best wishes,

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  1. Comment by Rodney Jones posted on

    May I commend you on your Project-SEARCH work.