Skip to main content

Duncan Selbie's Friday Message - 10 July 2020

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

Dear everyone


The Prime Minister has spoken publicly and candidly about his commitment to tackle obesity, in both adults and children, and how his attitude towards this has changed following his personal battle with COVID-19. I know his personal leadership on this will be warmly welcomed by the public health community across the country. In PHE, we are working at pace to support the commitments in the Childhood Obesity Plan, underpinned by our previous evidence reviews of what works including on price, promotions and advertising. We are also now moving forward on our annual monitoring of sugar reduction by industry, work to improve baby food, and salt and calorie reduction commitments.

You are all aware that where obesity is concerned, there is sadly no magic bullet. To truly tackle this, it will require a concerted and continued effort by the public themselves, the public health community, the NHS and industry working together. We stand ready to support the Prime Minister and look forward to saying more in the coming weeks.


‘No room for complacency’ was the message from Bradford’s Director of Public Health, Sarah Muckle, this week as we heard how they are managing down rates of COVID-19 infection in their population, working closely with PHE’s health protection and field epidemiology service in the North East and Yorkshire. Much hard work and innovation has gone into improving access to testing and to actively encourage residents to get tested if they have symptoms. Congratulations to Sarah and her team, and all their local partners, for their success so far. They have more work in train and will continue to monitor the surveillance picture closely to inform their public health action, but this is a great example of how Local Outbreak Control Plans work in practice and you can view Bradford’s plan in more detail here.

Situational awareness

This week we established a joint situational awareness team between PHE and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to bring together all the data and knowledge on the epidemic to inform our collective efforts to control the spread of the virus. The team will process, interpret and share high quality situational awareness outputs, providing an authoritative single voice that supports everyone involved in the response and decision making at a national, regional and local level.


Tobacco remains the nation’s biggest killer by some distance. The proportion of current smokers aged 18 years and above in the UK has encouragingly fallen again from 14.7% in 2018 to 14.1% in 2019, as revealed in the adult smoking habits in the UK 2019 report developed by PHE and the Office for National Statistics. Whilst this continues the trend since 2011, there are groups where smoking rates remain stubbornly high, with surprisingly the highest proportion being in 25 to 34 year olds (19.0%). PHE has updated the Local Tobacco Control Profiles for England, which provide a snapshot of tobacco use and measures to reduce tobacco related harm at a local level.

Psychological First Aid training

And finally, PHE’s Psychological First Aid (PFA) training module for all frontline and essential workers and volunteers has received over 50,000 sign ups in the three weeks since it was published. Supported by NHS England and Health Education England, the PFA training module aims to increase awareness of how to support the wellbeing of people affected by COVID-19. It is fantastic to see that so many people are willing to do this training so they can support others.

Best wishes



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

Sharing and comments

Share this page