Skip to main content

Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 29 March 2018

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Duncan Selbie Friday Message

I am writing on a Thursday because of the Easter weekend break, which I hope will bring everyone some rest and relaxation.

Today we published our annual business plan for 2018/19, which addresses the high level objectives set out in the remit letter that we have received from Ministers. These describe where we will focus our efforts over the next year, from continuing to build the economic case for prevention, working to create a fairer society by tackling health inequalities and continuing to apply our world leading science in the UK and around the world. As the Minister says, recent events have underlined the importance of and reliance on PHE’s scientific expertise and ability to deliver essential public health functions in emergencies, and this will remain our first duty.

As always, making anything happen depends on both collective and individual action and strong partnerships across systems and places. That is why our plan also speaks to the results of our recent stakeholder survey, which you can see here.

This week we relaunched our Couch To 5K app with the support of the BBC, which helps beginners get into running. This has been downloaded over half a million times. A nine week promotion period has started which will go right up until the day of the London Marathon and the BBC will also have a particular focus on helping new mums get back into fitness. You can read more here.

Greater Manchester are also taking physical activity seriously with a commitment to make the region the first to adopt the ‘daily mile challenge’ for everyone. This will be a simple, free and fun initiative where children and adults run, jog or walk for fifteen minutes every day and most people will average a mile or more in this time. Currently 25% of Greater Manchester adults are inactive with 38% not active enough to benefit their health so this commitment will ask all nurseries, schools, universities and workplaces to get involved.

And finally, an important breakthrough was recently made on the outbreak of Lassa fever in Nigeria which has been ongoing since the start of 2018. A study led by a German team currently deployed there which includes PHE PhD student Liana Kafetzopoulou, has discovered that the virus has not evolved to spread easily between humans as previously feared. This is excellent news for those working to contain the virus and the work builds on PHE's application of real time sequencing and molecular epidemiology during the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa.

With best wishes,





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

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Yoga Bowers posted on

    Congratulations on the various ‘prevention’ achievements highlighted in your annual business plan with Diabetes, NHS HealthCheck – the largest prevention programme in the world and the national Prevention Concordat for Better Mental Health.
    However, our enquiries indicate that budget information on prevention of Mental Illness for children is not available or collected! Again, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Mental Health Parity of Esteem (now known as the Mental Health Investment Standard or MHIS) is monitored at total mental health spend level versus the growth in overall programme allocations.
    Without clear budget allocation, the development of innovative mental illness prevention programs will not be encouraged or at least severely delayed! Prevention and promotion of mental health are also essential steps globally, say the World Health Organization. I wonder if the UK, with prevention investment, could not become a global leader in improving the mental health of our population as well as improve the UK’s productivity!
    The following two items indicate how prevention could emerge as the disruptive innovation sector in the field of children's mental health. The speed of delivery of the new Mentally Healthy Schools website to help primary school staff support the mental health of pupils has been impressive. With input from three charities and The Royal Foundation investment of £2 million to back digital solutions for mental health.

    Similarly in four years with AI, our words will be a window into our mental health. IBM Research says that new cognitive systems will provide tell-tale signs of early-stage developmental disorders, mental illness and degenerative neurological diseases that can help doctors and patients better predict, monitor and track these conditions.

  2. Comment by Yoga Bowers posted on

    Hi Duncan,

    Are you involved in the first ever Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit to be hosted in London this October, announced by Jeremy Hunt yesterday?

    In my 29 March comment, I said " I wonder if the UK, with prevention investment, could not become a global leader in improving the mental health of our population as well as improve the UK’s productivity!"

    In the same comment I also referenced examples of how "how prevention could emerge as the disruptive innovation sector in the field of children's mental health."

    Warmest wishes
    Yoga Bowers
    The Mindfulness Foundation