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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 15 September 2017

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Dear everyone,

Five years in, the public health system is strong and in good shape and our annual conference this week brought together over 1500 people from every conceivable profession, discipline and organisation, playing their part in protecting and improving the health of the people to share and learn from each other. The three themes were addressing inequalities, promoting world-leading science and the economics of prevention.

It was in short an inspiring and energising 48 hours and spoke to the resilience and optimism that our people have. The event drew attention to world-leading practice including PHE being the first in the world in the use of genomic sequencing in TB in clinical decision making and the early work of the newly elected mayors now covering 20% of the population of England. We also focused on concerning trends, for example on child mortality against our European counterparts, and the health and economic impacts of isolation and loneliness and what can be done about this.

Steve Brine MP, minister for public health and primary care gave the opening address, recognising that too often the focus is on deficits and not sufficiently the assets we have. He particularly noted that many local authorities are taking innovative action to improve the health of their populations and that they have a mind-set which means they strive for excellent value for money, however tight the fiscal position may be. He praised the public health family fulsomely for our work at home and internationally and I could not sufficiently echo this enough.

Amongst a sea of over 50 expert seminars, we also had the privilege of hearing from Richard Curtis, writer and director and founder of Comic Relief, the world’s largest and most successful social movement, about his work over 25 years in tackling poverty and disease and his own experience from within his family of poor mental health. This really was very moving with a combination of laughter and tears and an audience held in rapture.

The theme of my opening was about the importance of work as a health outcome and the relationship between income and outcome. Having a job is good for your health and is good for the economy. With an ageing population spending more years in work before retirement, helping people to stay well for longer and staying well in the workplace is both a growing local and national priority. Local government lead on economic development and attracting business that creates jobs that local people can get. This is the principal means by which the health gap between the affluent and the poorest can be most effectively bridged.  The forthcoming industrial strategy for England recognises this and is public health in action.

The final speaker, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, shared his expertise on communicating scientific and evidence based messages about health benefits and harms.

I would like to thank all the speakers and delegates and our events team led by the fabulous Fiona Cowan.

Together with NHS England, we wrote out to all 44 STPs on Wednesday about a refresh of a plan to tackle cardiovascular disease drawing attention to the prevention opportunity and sharing with them the data for their local area. There is the potential to prevent more than 9,000 heart attacks and at least 14,000 strokes over the next 3 years with better detection and management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation (AF).

This week new PHE data showed that liver disease, an almost entirely preventable illness, is now the fourth most common cause of years of life lost in people aged under 75 after heart disease and lung cancer. The data comes from the 2nd Atlas of Variation in Risk Factors and Healthcare for Liver Disease which lays bare the stark health inequalities in England. Hospital admission rates for cirrhosis have doubled over the past decade but vary 8.5 fold across CCGs and the gap is widening. Better news is that there are fewer hospital alcohol specific admissions for under 18s. This includes CCG level data, which should be especially of help to NHS commissioners and providers but also has relevance for local and national government.

And finally but not least, this week we published a new Health Economics Evidence Resource, which pulls together the best available cost-effectiveness and return on investment evidence, initially focused on the areas of the public health grant. The resource will be updated annually, ensuring the most relevant information is available in an easy-to-use accessible format. Please do have a look.

With best wishes,

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

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