Local leadership, better health – public health workshop

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Designate of Public Health England, began the session on the local government’s new public health role by saying that he had come to the conference in listening mode. He remarked that it was a “stroke of genius” that someone had remembered that local government had once been the natural home of public health so the transfer back should not be seen as a leap into the unknown but as a welcome return of a core workforce. Since being appointed he had been impressed at the diversity of activity already being undertaken by local government.  He ended his presentation by saying that it won’t be PHE’s job to tell local government what to do: rather they would help councils disseminate the good practice that already exists.

 

Dr Kate Ardern, Executive Director of Public Health for Wigan, spoke passionately about “making health everyone’s business”.  Councillors, council officers, public sector partners, the communities and business all had a role in “making every contact count” so that no opportunity to promote health was missed.  For example, in Wigan front-line staff in the council, the community sector, the fire service and the police are all accredited health trainers to make sure everyone understands their role in promoting health and wellbeing. 

 

She emphasised the importance of the Health and Wellbeing Board as drivers of system change.  But she raised the challenge that if HWBs are the system changers then they can’t operate as just another council committee.  In Wigan, their Board had taken the decision that they needed to develop a sense of common purpose, a common understanding of health and wellbeing, a common language and a shared vision before moving into formal committee mode. 

 

The question session, chaired by Cllr Linda Thomas, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, was lively and raised many issues – money, freedom from centralised performance management, freedom in appointing Directors of Public Health, how to disseminate good practice and the need for sector-led improvement on health and the discussion on the answer extended far beyond the end of the meeting.  From the numbers attending the session, it is clear that local government has a real appetite for their new public health responsibilities. The LGA will do our best to capture this passion and commitment and grasp this opportunity for transformational change.

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Local leadership, better health – public health workshop

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Designate of Public Health England, began the session on the...

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