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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 3 May 2019

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Dear everyone

It has been a week of headlines on obesity with lots of research presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow. Among other data, a major new study of 2.8 million adults was presented, highlighting again the challenge obesity and the associated risks pose to the UK. The results show that having a high BMI (from 30 upwards) can increase the risk of heart failure by as much as 70% and type 2 diabetes by a factor of 12. Although these are heavily caveated, no one is arguing about the increased risk of early death nor the additional pressure this places on the NHS.

And this week Public Health Minister Seema Kennedy MP vowed to drive forward the fight against childhood obesity making it her number one major health priority. She also made clear that the forthcoming prevention green paper will look at new action on the first years of life and the root causes of obesity.

Health inequalities in England are not improving and the need to address them lies at the heart of PHE’s mission. Professor John Newton, PHE’s Director of Health Improvement, spoke about this at the Health in All Policies: Delivering Health Equity Tackling Inequalities event this week, mentioning our existing work and resources but also highlighting a new programme to support local areas to reduce inequalities through place based approaches.  Working with the Association of Directors of Public Health and the Local Government Association this will begin with a sector-led improvement style Framework with background papers, slides, data packs and self-assessment guides. This is to be published in the summer and PHE will be providing follow up support from its strengthened health inequalities team.  Earlier in the week Professor Newton also spoke at the King’s Fund’s conference Towards Population Health Systems.  He stressed the need for the NHS to embrace a population approach, work with partners across sectors and nurture strong leaders with a population health mindset.

The latest data on cancer published by the Office for National Statistics and collected and analysed by PHE’s National Cancer Registration Service (NCRAS) shows that cancer diagnoses in England are rising but so are survival rates. People in the North East are worst affected by cancer incidence with 646.1 patients diagnosed per 100,000 people, whilst London has the lowest rate at 567.6 patients diagnosed per 100,000 people. This north-south divide can be seen on this interactive map, which displays where different types of cancer are most common. NCRAS is the biggest and richest source of cancer data in the world and we are incredibly fortunate to have this asset which puts the UK at the forefront of understanding a disease that at one time or another, will affect all of us. You can learn more about their work on the website.

Gates Notes, part of the Bill Gates Foundation, have profiled the UK Public Health Rapid Health Support Team and the work they do when they deploy overseas to assist during disease outbreaks. In this post from the official blog of Bill Gates, the deployments are described from how they begin, to the work the team does once on the ground. In the featured video, Professor Dan Bausch, who heads up the team, explains why this work matters to keeping the UK safe. Well worth a read and to watch the embedded videos.

And finally, PHE has been working since our formation on rationalising our estates and at the end of April, vacated the last of our inherited leases with private sector landlords, saving £3 million every year in rent, rates and other running costs. We now occupy space owned or leased by either a Government department, the NHS or local government or owned by ourselves, utilising public sector space and delivering best value for the taxpayer.

Best wishes


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

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