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Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 15 June 2018

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Dear everyone

By this point in the year, on average children in England have already exceeded their maximum recommended intake of sugar. This means that by the end of the year, they will have consumed more than double the amount and while this is graphic, it should not come as a shock. We are seeing a third of children leave primary school overweight or obese and a quarter of five year olds are suffering from tooth decay. Children of families living in the most deprived areas are twice as likely to be overweight as those as those in the most affluent ones. Government has announced a second chapter of the 2016 childhood obesity plan to help address this. Change4Life also provides helpful advice for parents and schools, including how to make some easy swaps to cut back on sugar. You can find out more here.  ​

In society and within workplaces, if we can get it right for people with learning disabilities, we can get it right for everyone. Next week is Learning Disability Week and the focus is all about health, in line with Mencap's Treat Me Well campaign. The message behind this is that simple changes such as better communication, more time and clearer information in hospital care can make a big difference and this translates to the workplace. To coincide, the PHE learning disabilities team are hosting a webinar about the early deaths of people with learning disabilities using learnings from the Bristol University Learning Disabilities Mortality Review annual report, which supports local areas to review deaths. To receive the invitation to join please email

Having a decent job boosts our wellbeing and quality of life as well as contributing to the economy. The longer a person is out of work, the more likely this is to impact on their health and their family and combined costs from worklessness and sickness absence amount to over 100 billion annually, which certainly makes the case for greater action. PHE has produced infographics on work, worklessness and health for every county and unitary authority in England following the national infographics first published in 2016, which led to requests for more localised data. You can learn more in our blog and access the new infographics here.

This week, in partnership with the Local Government Association, we have updated the Spend and Outcome Tool (SPOT). This allows local authorities to see how much is being spent on different interventions and the impact on relevant outcomes. It allows comparisons to be drawn across public health programmes and with other local authorities, identifying any significant variation that warrants further investigation. In our joint blog with the LGA we explain how this can be best used alongside our return on investment tools and the Public Health Outcomes Framework. A video introduction to the use of SPOT is available on the SPOT website.

On Tuesday evening our North of England and Diversity and Inclusion teams attended the NHS England Windrush awards in Manchester. This inspiring evening was a celebration of the contribution black and mixed ethnic communities make to the NHS. PHE were proud to present an award on health inequalities to retired nurse Beatrice Akyeampong and sexual health consultant Dr Vanessa Apea, a mother and daughter team who have set a high bar for others to follow. As the NHS turns 70 this year celebrations like these are the perfect way of showing how diverse and dynamic the people who keep the cogs turning truly are.

And finally, we have prepared a three minute movie about our forthcoming move to Harlow in Essex. This is a major six hundred million pound investment by the UK Government in public health science and our specialists and expertise. You can watch it here.

Best wishes




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

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  1. Comment by Imakumbili posted on

    Thank you for such a comprehensive update.
    Please be aware of the "Sugar Loading - Year 6: after school time" from personal experience:

    I write this while acknowledging the problem of obesity across all ages of children and yes, the approaches need to address all ages of people; however,

    I am writing to share my personal experience with children's' sugar intake before leaving primary school. Up until year 5 when i was picking up my daughter from school or when she was going to the after school club and then picked up to go home - she consumed less sugar or rather less sweets and at home we eat lots of fruits - parental support present. however, from year 6 when they can leave school on their own and travel home on their own; parental support is absent; my daughters sugar intake increased and any pocket money she got, she saved to buy sweets after school and the whole packet will be eaten in one evening, before i even got home from work. This, in addition to all the other sugar content consumed during the day is a sugar load in my opinion, with added fizz drinks another problem i encountered in year 6 for the same reasons - they are coming home on their own as the added problem. It is also not enough to say children should be compliant with parental instructions because we should remember that we were kids once.

    What might work(not yet tested) is something similar to smoking - where by; the shop keepers can only sell children a certain amount of sweets or not sell them sweets at all and not sell children certain types of drinks - sounds drastic, but the sugar load in year 6 is phenomenal and i do not believe that its only my own daughters experience.

    she is not consuming as much sweets/sugar now and she eats more healthily again, exercises and is a dancer so maintains a very good body weight; but my experience was that "after school in year 6 was definitely the sugar loading year" for her - or should i call it "sweet loading year".

    I am aware because it is something i kept an eye on and worked against it, but working parents need help in those dizzy hours before they get home to their children, particularly the year six group who are now travelling home on their own and can visit any shop they want to. And these restrictions can be extended up to secondary school children.

    Many thanks for reading this.

  2. Comment by S Marsh posted on

    The infographics about employment are great but they need to pick up on unpaid carers please. Many are forced to leave or reduce employment and it’s hard to reenter work. Also they are otherwise invisible which is very bad.