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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 23 March 2018

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Dear everyone

Knowing what people think of us means we can keep alive to where we can improve as well as feel good about when we get it right.  We recently received the results of our latest stakeholder survey from Ipsos MORI, who noted that "PHE continues to be a well-respected organisation with a lot of goodwill held towards it" and that our advocacy score on the impact of our work was the third highest of the public sector stakeholder surveys they have conducted over the past ten years. As ever there are areas highlighted where we can do better. For example, our partners and stakeholders value clear points of contact and the personal touch over emails and remote communications; they want more support and advice on navigating and manipulating large data sets and sharing best practice; and a greater understanding on our part of local authorities and the politicised environments they work in.

While we may not be always aware of it, science is a huge part of our daily lives. Science keeps us well, identifies risks to health, allows us to react to dangerous incidents and keeps us continually moving forward through innovation and discovery. Last week, as part of British Science Week, PHE scientists ran workshops in schools across the country, aiming to get children thinking about a career in science and the many different ways in which this can be achieved. From DNA extraction experiments to learning about how vaccines are developed, the activities put on throughout the week energised both our scientists and the students and I hope that we have inspired some future scientists.

PHE had another opportunity to showcase our science this week at our annual Science and Research conference at Warwick University.  Around 10,000 outbreaks are quietly and effectively dealt with every year by PHE working with local public health teams, keeping people safe and stopping threats in their tracks without alarming the public and with the highest levels of professionalism. At the heart of PHE and underpinning the whole public health system is science and research, ranging from molecular biology to whole genome sequencing, through to behavioural and nutrition science and cancer and rare diseases. Thank you to all those involved in organising and contributing to this.

The Water Industry Act of 1991 requires the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to monitor the effects of water fluoridation schemes and report on the effect they have on health at four-yearly intervals. This week we published the latest of these reports and the evidence remains clear that water fluoridation is an effective and safe public health measure. Importantly, it effectively reduces tooth decay which remains a major issue for young people, especially among deprived communities. The full report is available here, and you can also find our return on investment tool here, which helps local authorities calculate potential cost savings through the implementation of various dental health interventions, including fluoridation. PHE has also produced a fluoridation toolkit to help LAs make decisions about water fluoridation.

This week the Royal Society of Public Health published their report on the health and wellbeing impact of different forms of credit. Their Life On Debt Row report ranks credit unions as being the least harmful way of raising short term finance and payday loans as the worst. Debt overwhelms many people and their families and you can read the full report here.

And finally, tomorrow is World TB Day.  Over the past six years new TB cases in England have fallen by over a third and rates are at the lowest they have been for 35 years. This is such good news and of enormous credit to NHS clinicians and PHE scientists in identifying and treating patients. TB is not inevitable and there is more still to be done and neither NHS England nor PHE will rest until this is no longer a public health threat in England.

Best wishes,




Friday messages from 2012-2017 are available on GOV.UK

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