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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 21 July 2017

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Dear everyone

Health Minister Steve Brine got to experience first-hand our science, research and development at Porton, our scientific campus in Wiltshire last week. He met with staff and learnt about the wide scope of our work from water decontamination and incident response to rare and imported pathogens. Afterwards he sent this message: “A world class facility is easy to say but harder to realise.  PHE Porton is a key part of UK infrastructure and rightly respected around the world.  The work that takes place there is central to protecting the nation's health from infectious diseases and other hazards but it's the commitment, and unbelievable skill sets of the people working at Porton which ensure it remains world class."  I would like to thank everyone at Porton and the Minister was keen to take up our invitation to meet our science teams at Colindale and at Chilton.

We have reached the time of year when children are finishing school and going off to enjoy their summer break. While this is a good time for young people to recharge, it’s also important that they stay active throughout the holidays as counterintuitively, research suggests children do less in way of physical activity in the summer holidays than in term time.

To help families, this week we launched with Disney and Sport England our fourth annual Change4Life 10 Minute Shake Up programme. This programme, using Disney characters as fun and inspiration, offers parents and carers a free, happy way to encourage children to be more active in the home or out and about.  Search 10 Minute Shake Ups and you will find lots of fun game ideas and a local activity finder.

The new Tobacco Control Plan published this week has been widely welcomed for its focus on vulnerable groups, including people with mental health problems and young pregnant mums, especially those in the most deprived areas who experience a vicious circle, as smokers’ children are two to three times more likely to become smokers themselves.

This new plan also has a focus on the NHS being smokefree, as well as our world leading work to maximise the potential that e-cigarettes offer, while managing the risks.

We are at a pivotal point where an end is in sight and a smokefree generation a reality. But the final push, reaching the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, will undoubtedly be the hardest. Only by everyone pulling together can we hope to end the loss of life and damage smoking causes and PHE will do everything possible to make this happen.

We are breaking new ground in health intelligence from access to new datasets, increasing use of data science, digital innovation, user needs research and clear frameworks for decision-support.  Over the past six months we have been carrying out a review of the health intelligence function provided by Public Health Wales and have benefitted from reflections from Northern Ireland and Scotland. We look forward to building ever stronger collaborations on this and more broadly across the four nations.

When it comes to health, there is great potential for the creative arts, including activities such as acting, dancing, singing and painting to name just a few, to improve population health and for individuals. This week the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts and Health published their ground breaking evidence review on the benefits of arts on health and wellbeing and I encourage you to have a look at this. Doctor Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Select Committee, has said of their report: "If social prescribing were a drug, people would be outraged that doctors weren't prescribing it."

Improving access to local green space is another important factor that positively affects health, and to promote this the Ordnance Survey has launched, with PHE support, an interactive digital map and database identifying accessible greenspace in Britain. We have successfully migrated this data into our powerful SHAPE mapping tool to support the strategic planning of services and physical assets, which we hope will be of practical help to Local Authorities and NHS commissioners.

And finally, this week we published our annual report for 2016/17.  We are now into our fifth year as the nation’s public health agency and while there is always more to do and learn, we are in good shape and moving forward from a strong and confident foundation.

With best wishes,

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