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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 18 August 2017

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Dear everyone

No one will have missed the news coverage of the tragedy unfolding in Freetown in Sierra Leone, with hundreds of people including children losing their life in a landslide caused by severe flooding. PHE remains in Sierra Leone in the post-Ebola period and we will be doing all we can to support the Sierra Leone Government as they come to terms with the loss and the aftermath.

This week marks one year since the Government launched the Childhood Obesity Plan. It has been a year of positive action, with the Soft Drinks Industry Levy becoming law and the beginning of our Sugar Reduction Programme, which aims to see a 20% reduction in sugar in popular children’s products by 2020. We have seen early progress from food companies and retailers to cut sugar from products and we are now well underway with the drinks industry to do the same with products such as milkshakes and smoothies.

Today the next phase of work begins. PHE has been asked by the Government to extend the focus to excess calorie consumption in children. This programme, as with sugar reduction, includes all of the food industry, manufacturers, retailers and out of home retail. Food is more readily available than ever and with a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, an excess of calories, not just excess sugar consumption, is the root cause of this.

Physical activity is often described as the most cost-effective drug we have. Its benefits are far-reaching, from prevention of disease to improving self-esteem. The Chief Medical Officer Guidelines recommend adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, but research published this week by PHE shows that the majority of GPs in England are not aware of these guidelines and one in seven would not feel confident raising the taking of physical activity with their patients.

And the publication last week of the World Health Organisation Draft Global Action Plan on Physical Activity, which PHE contributed to, highlights the global importance of tackling inactivity both for health and the global sustainable development goals.

This is why we are working with Sport England on a multi-strand programme of action to embed physical activity into the routine practice of healthcare professionals in England. Local government also have many examples of programmes that people can join and this is a key priority for public health action.

Managing money well is at the heart of all successful organisations. The finalists for Finance for the Future Awards 2017 were announced this week by the founding organisations, the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW) and Accounting for Sustainability (A4S), in partnership with Deloitte. The awards highlight excellent organisational and business practice, recognising the role of the finance function in helping to embed sustainability into decision making.

With a record number of entries from across 12 countries, I am delighted to say that PHE has been shortlisted for the public and not for profit award. Recognition from peers is always a pleasure and in this particular instance reflects our relentless focus on supporting people and place, and environmental sustainability, whilst at the same time securing financial sustainability and tax payer value for money. My warmest congratulations to our superb finance colleagues.

And finally, we are now less than four weeks away from our annual conference. I look forward to welcoming members of the public health community to the University of Warwick for two days of discussion, learning and networking. You can see our comprehensive programme of sessions and keynote addresses on our conference website.

With best wishes,





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

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