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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 15 March 2019

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Dear everyone

The Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock MP has rightly declared air pollution a public health emergency with deaths from man-made air pollution estimated between 28,000 and 36,000 every year. PHE has published a review of the evidence this week with a focus on the practical actions that local authorities can take to improve air quality, such as a clean by design approach to planning, promoting investment in clean public transport and providing the infrastructure to promote active travel. We have the technology and opportunity to create a clean air generation of children, everyone has a part to play and we need to act now. You can learn more in our news story.

Science saves lives and we need to make it a career path that appeals to as many young people as possible. PHE scientists operate round the clock to keep people safe and the breadth of this is vast. From tracing the source of disease outbreaks to working overseas to help train laboratory staff in other countries, a career in science is a career of many opportunities. As part of British Science Week 80 of our scientists have been showcasing their work in schools, science fairs and on our own campuses. Students have been extracting DNA from their own cells using household products, getting hands-on experience of a working public health laboratory and talking to scientists about what they do, the science and technology they use to help the public and how they got there.

The scientists that have taken part specialise in a range of disciplines, including vaccine research, antibiotic resistance, informatics and understanding how bugs cause diseases and spread them. In order to answer the big public health questions, we need a passionate, curious and diverse workforce and this means investing in our current and future scientists, encouraging people from all backgrounds and across many different interests. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in British Science Week.

Earlier this week I contributed to an event organised by Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), a national partnership of over 50 voluntary organisations committed to transforming health and care through personalisation and community-based support. The work that TLAP does talks directly to what the NHS Long Term Plan says - that we should be asking people “what matters to you” rather than “what is the matter with you”. As we put more emphasis on prevention over treatment, it will become especially important that we are personalising care and helping people to live their lives in the way they want to and in the places they want to be. PHE has a bank of 41 community-centred examples and this collection is a great resource, illustrating practical ways to help build healthier communities and maximise community assets.

And finally, we have now received the findings of our latest independent stakeholder review which we use to understand the impact of our work and where they feel we can improve. The main take home is that most of our stakeholders feel they have a good relationship with PHE and that the work we do has a positive impact. Our spontaneous advocacy rating is also at the highest it has ever been. As ever the results show some areas that we can work on, such as earlier engagement and consultation and we will reflect on all of these.

Best wishes


Friday messages from 2012-2018 are available on GOV.UK

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