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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 15 February 2019

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Dear everyone

Each week I am in different parts of England to hear first-hand how Councils and their NHS partners are going about their duty to improve the public’s health.

This week I met the excellent leadership team for Enfield in North London, who have created a 5km super cycle highway to encourage people to move more, last week I was in Reading where they have managed to have no child temporarily living in a bed and breakfast this winter and in West Sussex, where there is innovative work to prevent falls and fractures in the elderly, and much more besides. This is all public health in action. It is not as visible to the public or media as the work of doctors and nurses in the NHS but it is as critical to keeping people well for longer, and when unwell in their homes for longer and to helping make our NHS sustainable.

During these visits, we speak always of the most important factors affecting good physical and mental health. For children, having the best start in life and being ready to start school and for young people it is entering adulthood with the resilience to thrive. For adults it is having a secure job and home and at all ages the importance of friendship and belonging in life. Essentially, income being the greatest determinant of outcome at every stage of life and the importance of economic growth and prosperity being more widely shared to closing the health gap between the affluent and the poor.

This is why the forthcoming Green Paper on Prevention matters so much with its promise to place improving health into all of Government policy and highlighting where we can better join the dots between individual personal responsibility with that of national and local government alongside the NHS and the vibrant third sector, all focused on the places that people live and work.

This understanding of what matters to good health shines through the work of District Councils who lead on local planning and the environment and is exemplified in the recent Shaping Healthy Places Report from the Local Government Association and District Council Network.

Health Protection Research Units (HPRUs) are research partnerships between competitively chosen leading universities and PHE, and are centres of excellence for a wide range of research topics, from blood-borne infections to environmental change. Yesterday the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) launched the call for proposals for a second phase of these partnerships for the forthcoming five years. The research undertaken through the current 13 units benefits our work by providing high quality evidence that we can apply directly, as well as use for excellent scientific training for staff and PhD students. We have now identified our future health protection research priorities and the HPRUs that will share the £50million funding across five years will be selected by an internationally leading panel of public health scientific peers

And finally, warm congratulations to PHE’s Lucy Elliss-Brookes who was publicly recognised this week by Cancer Research UK for her work to improve early diagnosis. Lucy has been at the forefront of cancer intelligence for over 20 years helping clinicians and researchers to understand and use cancer data to save lives.

Best wishes


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