Skip to main content

Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 17 May 2019

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Duncan Selbie Friday Message

Dear everyone

Health as a balance sheet asset, not a cost

The forthcoming Green Paper on Prevention is a fabulous opportunity to further the economic case for investing in prevention as the arbiter of wealth creation. We know that health begets wealth and securing the health of the people is a UK investment in our economic future, rather than a cost to be borne. This of course has relevance to the NHS in avoiding future costs but is even more to do with creating jobs that local people can get, decent housing and creating social value across communities. Put more simply the importance to good health of having a decent job, home and friendship and so a whole of civil society responsibility.

This is not a moral or health and social care cost concern alone, as important as these are, but an imperative for the UK rather than a choice.

This is the ideal time to rethink how we invest in prevention and an important contribution to this is a joint report from PHE and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) published on Tuesday. Public services are well acquainted with the rigours of the Prudential Code for assuring the value for money and social value of capital investments, and any reader of balance sheets can tell at a glance whether an organisation is investing in or degrading its infrastructure. No such assessment can be made today on the balance of reactive and preventative revenue spending and this work with CIPFA, the accountancy standard setting body for public services, is a first, bold step towards this being a requirement for future financial reporting. Read the report and our blog to find out more.

Upcoming Health Matters launch

The importance of investing in the prevention of poor health by taking a life course approach is also the focus of the upcoming edition of Health Matters, PHE’s professional resource. Launching with a teleconference on Thursday next week, Professor John Newton will be joined by a panel of experts to lead an interactive question and answer session. You can sign up to join the teleconference.

News study on the effects of the tobacco display ban

For more than four years tobacco products have been banned from shop sale displays across the UK. Results from the first study on the effects of this have now been published and suggest that fewer 11 to 16 year olds have taken up smoking since it came into effect, and that children are less conscious of branding. There has also been a steady decline in the acceptability of smoking. The study by the University of Stirling shows that this policy is working and safeguarding young people as more turn their backs on smoking.

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and the range of activity has been impressive, with the profile higher than ever before, which is good news for helping to make progress. The week was kicked off by a report from the Mental Health Foundation, which tells us that over a third of adults in the UK have felt anxious or depressed because of concerns about their body image, and higher body dissatisfaction has also been associated with poorer quality of life, psychological distress, and the risk of unhealthy eating behaviours and drug and alcohol abuse. Learn more about this in their body image report.

PHE has been working with the mental health third sector, groups representing those with lived experience of mental illness, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the NHS and many others in developing a new digital platform for people experiencing stress, low mood and anxiety amongst other common mental health problems. This groundbreaking programme will be rolled out nationally later this year.

The WHO’s new global guidelines on reducing dementia risk

The UK has more than 800,000 people with dementia and set to rise as the population ages. It is a condition for which there is currently no cure, which has a devastating impact on family and friends as well of course on the person living with the condition. Those aged over 55 now cite dementia as their greatest future health concern surpassing their fears of cancer.

With a third of cases thought to be preventable, the World Health Organization (WHO) this week published its first ever global guidelines on how people can reduce their risk of getting dementia. The guidance, part funded by PHE and with our technical support, assesses the evidence of what works for lowering risk, including staying active, stopping smoking and drinking sensibly, and promoting the truth that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. In England, we actively promote dementia risk reduction through the NHS Health Check programme and have produced for the NHS and the public a range of resources in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

European Testing Week

And finally, today marks the beginning of European Testing Week, an international campaign to get more people tested for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The UK has much to be proud of in tackling these infectious diseases and is one of the first countries to meet the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. A decline in liver transplant registrations (53% fall by 2017, when compared to pre-2015 levels) and actual liver transplants undertaken (39% fall, when compared to pre-2015 levels) for hepatitis C-associated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma has been observed, combined with a fall in deaths from hepatitis C-related severe liver disease of 16% by 2017 from 2015, indicating that we are on well on track to meet the WHO targets for morbidity and mortality to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat.

However, with 7,800 people living with HIV in the UK who are undiagnosed, and 113,000 living with hepatitis C in England, it is imperative that testing, diagnosis and linkage to care keep pace with planned treatment targets, and targeted reductions in prevalence. We are working with the NHS and local government to keep this high on everyone’s radar.

Best wishes


You can subscribe to the Friday message newsletter version which goes direct to your inbox here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page