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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 28 September 2018

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Dear everyone

Last week the Secretary of State Matt Hancock led the UK delegation for the annual health dialogue with China, supported by Public Health England with a focus on prevention and technology. We shared comparative data on obesity, mental health, cardiovascular disease and tobacco control and had lively discussions around how we use technology and digital services to respond to health challenges. Interestingly we are very close in the problems we face, saving the scale, which is obviously very different. For example we have four million people with type 2 diabetes and they have 114 million, both around the 10% of the population mark. For obesity, we are less similar with the UK being very much in the wrong place, however for smoking the UK is faring much better, with China having 19% of the world’s population smoking 44% of all cigarettes manufactured. PHE stayed on to meet our counterparts in the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention where we have a growing partnership, then onto the Health Commission in Shanghai, where the parallels with London are most obvious and where we can definitely learn from each other.

People with severe mental illness (SMI) die on average 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population. A new PHE report published this week shows that people with SMI have significantly higher prevalence of seven out of ten physical health conditions, they often have two or more of these conditions at the same time, and it is young adults who experience the greatest inequalities. This has been known for some years but this is the first report to present such a detailed picture and to make plain that the physical health needs of those with SMI must be better addressed to close this gap. It is also very timely for the NHS long term plan and its determination to focus on prevention and tackling inequalities and none more so than for people experiencing mental health problems.

This week our annual tuberculosis report was published, coinciding with the first UN High Level Meeting on tuberculosis in New York. The new data tells us that in 2017 we saw the lowest number of people diagnosed with TB since 1990, and a 38% drop in the number of cases since the peak in 2011, which is testament to the excellent work of those right across the health and care system. But we cannot be complacent as almost one third of people with TB experience delays in getting treatment, and people with social risk factors and the most deprived continue to be disproportionally affected by TB. While there is of course more to do on TB, the roll out of Whole Genome Sequencing to the whole of England following a successful pilot by PHE in the Midlands and North will provide clinicians with more precise information, strengthen our understanding of transmission, and in turn aid TB control efforts.

Another person quits smoking every 80 seconds in England and prevalence rates are at a record low, with one million fewer smokers since 2014. Of the remaining six million smokers, six in ten will attempt to quit with the least effective method – using willpower alone. Stoptober, our annual 28 day stop smoking challenge, begins on Monday and new to this year is the offer of a free online Personal Quit Plan, which will help smokers find the right stop smoking support for them. Our latest edition of Health Matters, published on Tuesday, also sets out the various quitting routes that can be taken and the evidence for their effectiveness. Read the full edition and blog to find out more.

And finally, you may recall that PHE recently published the second edition of our Health Profile for England which provides the most comprehensive look at the state of the nation’s health in one place. We have prepared a brief report with the ten most important points as we see them about our health today, and what it means for our future, which I hope you find interesting.

Best wishes


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

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  1. Comment by Cameron Russell posted on

    Hi, just wanted to let you know that I think these Friday messages are always interesting and well written. Thanks

  2. Comment by Elcena Jeffers posted on

  3. Comment by Sarah Smith posted on

    I also enjoy the messages and I am interested to know who actually writes them? Is it Duncan? Marketing department? Or both?

  4. Comment by Rubina Shamim posted on

    Friday message is a simple and straight forward way of information to keep the staff aware of WSCC activities at one point.