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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 22 February 2019

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Dear everyone

CVD mortality rates have almost halved over recent decades yet cardiovascular disease remains the biggest cause of premature death in the UK. This is why reducing CVD related deaths is a major part of the NHS Long Term Plan and last week PHE and NHS England announced new CVD prevention ambitions which are the first of their kind. The ambitions aim to improve the detection and management of atrial fibrillation (AF), high blood pressure and raised cholesterol and build on the good work already being done across local government to tackle CVD through the NHS Health Check, including getting more people to take up the offer. These new ambitions have been published in our latest edition of Health Matters and you can sign up to join a live teleconference launch to learn more, ask questions and hear from the experts.

On Monday I had the pleasure of spending the morning with our scientists at our Colindale campus and witnessing again their work around the clock to keep the UK safe from infectious disease. In the public eye recently this has involved MERS CoV, monkeypox and rabies, with monkeypox being diagnosed in the UK for the first time. I was also glad to meet our current Project SEARCH students; this is a programme to give work experience to young people with a significant learning disability and to help them into permanent employment in the public or private sector. It does depend on absolutely everyone in Colindale making this possible, finding the brilliance within each of the students and giving them a chance to be the best they can be. One of the students said this: “I now work at PHE and I don’t feel like I have a learning disability here because I feel equal and happy.” I love this and it speaks so well of our Colindale colleagues.

PHE works with Governments overseas to strengthen compliance with the International Health Regulations. One of these countries is Nigeria with their Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which is led by Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu. For some time now PHE staff have been in Nigeria, this month training young scientists on new bacteriology techniques and working in advance laboratory settings, helping to build Nigeria’s resilience in responding to major outbreaks of infectious disease. A timely profile of Dr Chikwe and his brilliant leadership is featured this week in a profile in Nature.

We have now published our mid-season data on the effectiveness of the flu vaccines, which shows a high level of protection against the circulating strain, particularly for children. The data suggests the nasal spray vaccine is 87% effective in children aged 2-17 years against the main circulating strain, A(H1N1)pmd09. This high level of protection is particularly heartening combined with the increase of uptake we are seeing among children plus the addition of an extra school year into the programme. As children spread flu more easily this means that everyone will be better protected.​

And finally, yesterday educational charity GambleAware launched their latest marketing campaign to raise awareness of the harms of gambling and we have provided social marketing expertise to support them in this. Our evidence review is underway on the health harms of gambling and we expect to publish initial findings later this year.

Best wishes


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