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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 27 July 2018

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Dear everyone

New data from our National Child Measurement Programme published this week show that levels of severe obesity in children aged 10 to 11 years have reached the highest point since records began. The findings also show that health inequalities are continuing to widen and the prevalence of excess weight, obesity, and severe obesity are markedly higher in the most deprived areas. This speaks to the importance of chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan in reversing these trends. This of course will not happen overnight but is one of the leading public health priorities of our time.

Last week the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) published its report ‘Feeding in the first year of life’ on infant feeding from birth up to 12 months of age. The science strongly supports babies being exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age; continuing to be breastfed for at least the first year of life and that solid foods should not be introduced until around 6 months to benefit the child’s overall health. While this represents no change to national advice it should put to bed commonly held beliefs that there is a beneficial effect of earlier introduction of solid foods.

Changing needs and context mean that local authorities must frequently review which public health services they provide for their population. Whether the decision to be made is around particular interventions, or a wider review of allocating resources across programmes, there are health economics tools that can help. The latest edition of Health Matters published today focuses on the resources that PHE’s Health Economics team have produced. These have been designed to be easy to use by those with no formal health economics qualifications and they aim to facilitate and simplify cost-effective decision making around commissioning. Read our blog to learn more.

This week our HIV Innovation fund opened to voluntary sector organisations for the fourth year. The fund supports new approaches to prevention with a particular focus on at-risk or under-served communities and applicants should have endorsement from their local authority. Applications will be open until 4 September.

On Wednesday following a 42-day observation period with no new confirmed cases recorded, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was declared over. My thanks to all those from across PHE who have been involved in this, sharing expertise both on the ground in the Congo through the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team and across our scientific support teams in England. You can learn more about how we keep track of new and emerging diseases in our blog.

And finally, the weather. It has been one of the hottest summers since modern records began in 1961. Of course lots of people will be enjoying the blue skies and sunshine but extreme weather poses risks to health, particularly to vulnerable groups such as older people, young children and those with underlying heart or lung conditions. I know that those in local government, the NHS and nationally are doing all possible to keep people safe and in thinking ahead about the challenges of a changing climate  You can read more about why our health can be affected by heatwaves and how we can all enjoy the sun safely in our blog.

Best wishes


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