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Duncan Selbie's Christmas message - 20 December 2019

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Dear everyone

I always pause my weekly message during the pre-election period but as 2019 draws to a close and with the election concluded, I wanted to send my best wishes and say a heartfelt thank you for a year of exceptional hard work, and much to be proud of.

It is a privilege to visit different parts of England every week and to witness at first hand how local authorities, their NHS partners, PHE colleagues and many others are working together to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of local people. I am constantly inspired by their ingenuity and innovation and always bring what I learn back into PHE and share their stories.

Congratulations too to the new Government and to the returning Secretary of State, Matt Hancock. Obviously, the NHS and the health of the people were centre-stage in the election campaign, and their promise to see economic growth and prosperity reach every part of England and in particular communities across the North and the Midlands speaks to the evidence that income remains the greatest determinant of health outcome, with health and wealth being two sides of the same coin. A refreshed investment strategy that drives local growth and creates new jobs that local people can get is the single most powerful way of improving the health of everyone. PHE is supporting a health in all policies approach across HMG and locally in support of Directors of Public Health through the Combined Authorities, Elected Mayors and Integrated Care Systems recognising that no one organisation can achieve this, but together we can.

I also pay tribute to the tremendous and tireless work of our scientists in infectious diseases and the environmental sciences. It has been another eventful year with many moments where we have kept the country safe and well and this will always remain our first duty.

This year PHE published a new five-year strategy highlighting ten priorities where we believe we can have the greatest impact and a first infectious diseases strategy for how we will harness the latest science to keep the public safe from dangerous pathogens. And our Health Profile for England underpinned the NHS’s Long-Term Plan and the Government’s Green Paper on prevention. We have also published our second report on the food and drinks industry progress toward the sugar reduction targets, highlighted the harms of prescription drug dependence, and made a series of practical recommendations to address air quality through our landmark evidence reviews.

In October, we launched Every Mind Matters, a world first digital programme to help people, and those they care for better cope with everyday trouble with sleeping, low moods, stress and anxiety, giving good mental health the same importance that has always been given to good physical health. More than 300,000 people completed a mind plan in the first week rising to nearly one million in the first seven weeks. Watch out for more on this in 2020 as the world of football gets behind the mental health agenda in early January.

I am also immensely proud of our work as the UK focal point for the International Health Regulations and of our colleagues posted in Africa and Asia to assist with global health security through strengthening their public health capacity and capability. Working overseas can be very demanding but always rewarding and is an essential contribution to helping keep people safe at home in the UK.

And finally, what we do matters but equally so, how we do it. Our values of integrity and scientific independence are matched only by the importance of kindness and civility in how we work with each other and those we serve. This defines the best organisations and I am proud to be your Chief Executive.

With my best wishes for peace and rest over Christmas,


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