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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 30 November 2018

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Dear everyone

Sixty percent of the world’s people with type 2 diabetes are from Asian nations, with the global number having increased from 180 million in the 1980s to over 420 million today. Earlier this week I was in Singapore, where representatives from eighteen countries attended a ministerial conference on Diabetes, discussing the causes and learning from each other on how to tackle these. Prevalence rates for type 2 diabetes average around 10%, including in the UK, but can be as high as 20% in the Pacific Islands and these mirror global trends in obesity which are also on the rise. Eighty percent of the health complications caused by diabetes are preventable and those nations that have healthcare provision can directly attribute at least 10% of their hospital based costs to these. For the NHS that’s around £10 billion. The focus for everyone was on prevention, digital innovation and how to strengthen primary care over hospital based solutions.

We presented England’s experience of the NHS Health Check programme which includes a diabetes risk assessment, commissioned by local government and provided through primary care. We also shared the learnings from our NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, a partnership between PHE, NHS England and Diabetes UK which now covers the whole of England. In particular we explained how both programmes are helping us to reach the less affluent, those from diverse ethnic backgrounds and more men, who traditionally do not take up offers of early intervention. Digital innovations were a key part of our presentation too, and we reported their use across both programmes and their promising early results, showing how modern technologies further accelerate their reach, impact and scaleability. Both programmes are tangible examples that prevention really is better and cheaper than cure.

Our National Infection Service (NIS) is a national and international centre of expertise on infectious disease and plays a leading role in keeping the UK safe. The work of the NIS is very diverse including providing laboratory tests for the NHS and local government and advice to government and international agencies. In March next year Professor Derrick Crook, the Director of the NIS, will be returning to his chair at Oxford University and this week we announced his interim successor, Professor Sharon Peacock, who was recently appointed Chair in public health and microbiology at Cambridge University. Derrick created the NIS as a single, integrated service and we owe him a great debt.

In order to share some of the fascinating, often lifesaving stories of our scientists we started a series called Disease Detectives earlier this year. Through this platform we have already shared several stories, from how we keep track of new and emerging infections to what it was like to work in frontline medicine at the start of the AIDS epidemic. This week we published the final story of 2018 which looks at the 35 year career of Professor Neil Bentley, from his time in the army to working for PHE in Sierra Leone during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. These stories are well worth a read.

And finally, climate change affects all aspects of our lives, from the places we live to the air we breathe. This week marked ten years since the landmark Climate Change Act was passed, the first Act of Parliament of its kind worldwide. The Act specified targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and committed the UK to an assessment of climate change risk every five years. The most recent Climate Change Risk Assessment, published in 2017 identified increases in the frequency and intensity of flooding and heatwaves as two of the most likely concerns. Learn more in our blog.

You can read previous Friday messages here.

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  1. Comment by Meradin Peachey posted on

    Interesting feedback on the one You programme on the news today. Weight loss seems to be a good outcome. Interesting feedback from people who have done the course. Is this programme reaching ethnic minorities?

  2. Comment by Anna Gibson posted on

    Reading about the career of Professor Neil Bentley was truly inspirational.