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Looking back on the foundation of the Faculty of Public Health, it is important to be aware that Public Health, after its 19th century century achievements, has always had difficulties in establishing its role and esteem.
The dramatic advances in treatment first of infective conditions and later of chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease have always, in the public mind, overshadowed the far more effective public health measures such as vaccination, or the identification of the hazards of smoking and its prevention, lack of exercise and diet in the control of disease.
It is unfortunate that we have never been able to make our subject more “sexy”. But, in addition, we have, as a group, always been concernedwith inequalities and alleviation of poverty, which has diminished our appeal tomany politicians and powerful financial, commercial and industrial interests.

If you have difficulty accessing this page, which gives a round-up of FPH’s activities in 2015, please email policy@fph.org.uk for a plain text version of it.

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  • Helen Ross – Insight Specialist – Public Health
  • Nottingham City Council

The second meeting of the Faculty of Public Health’s Strategic Interest Group for Sustainable Development on 4 December began with a reminder of the reasons why it is important for us to tackle climate change.

This was clearly illustrated by the photograph below of Cockermouth’s public illustration of the height of their floods in 2009.  Following the flooding, new and improved flood defences were installed.

SIG photo

Cockermouth’s public illustration of the height of their floods in 2009

However, they did not protect homes and businesses in the area from the severe weather event that occurred during the first week of December 2015 in the Lake District. Our thoughts go out to all those who have suffered as a result of the flooding, many of whom have experienced this for the second or third time in 10 years.

Evidence from the Lancet Commission and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that an unsustainable approach to the future (including climate change) is almost certainly one of the biggest threats to public health this century.  Tackling this needs a transformation in the way our industries (including the health sector) and we as individuals carry out our business and day-to-day lives.  The evidence is clear and widely accepted that inaction is unacceptable; the multiple benefits for health are profound; and time is running out.

We were joined at this meeting by:

  • Dr Stephen Morton, Programme Director, Sustainability for Public Health Benefits at Public Health England, who shared his thoughts about best value for public health return on investment
  • Councillor Alex Norris, Nottingham City Health and Wellbeing Board chair and Executive Member for Adults, Commissioning & Health, and
  • Councillor Rory Palmer, Deputy Mayor of Leicester City Council with the portfolio for Health Integration and Wellbeing and chair of the Leicester City Health and Wellbeing Board.

They offered their insights into Public Health and Sustainable Development in a Local Authority setting and Fernando Antezana-Aranibar: former Deputy Director General of the World Health Organisation gave his international perspective about Climate Change and health.

Key points emerging included:

  • This is a very important issue for the Faculty of Public Health because:
    •    The health of the public, now and in the future, depends on us living within limits and developing all sustainable assets – environmentally, economically and socially.
    •    The natural and built environment, public spaces, transport, food supply, biodiversity, energy, education, employment, social capital, community resilience, diversity, social justice, and sustainable public services are fundamental to health, equity, and wellbeing.
    •    For environmental sustainability to be achieved, the health system – and society generally – must be capable of being maintained without depleting natural resources or causing ecological damage, so that environmental resources are available for future generations, both in the UK and around the world.
    •    Achieving our goals in sustainable and low carbon ways is critical to turning the biggest health threat we face into the greatest opportunity for collective action and health improvement.
    •    Ensuring environmental sustainability also ensures financial sustainability, and promotes social sustainability (making best use of all human and social assets including asset based community development approaches to public health).
    •    These approaches are fundamental to improving health and addressing health inequalities.  An unsustainable world harms the health of the poorest members of society disproportionately, both nationally and globally.
    •    Professional organisations such as FPH are crucial in helping professionals, public and the media in this transition. This is why FPH has established this Sustainability Development and Health SIG.
  • The terms of reference were agreed: The aims of the SIG are to:
    •    drive forward strategic action that embeds the principles of sustainable development into all that the Faculty of Public Health stands for, in order to create a healthy, equitable and sustainable future.
    •    provide a focal point for FPH members who share a common interest in sustainable public health, and a forum for the exchange of ideas, knowledge information and the coordination of action.
    •    act as one of the expert resources on knowledge, practice and the development of policies and strategies in this field. The FPH needs to use all the competence and commitment within staff, Fellows, members and partners to develop, articulate and advocate sustainable development as a key part of the Faculty’s policies, training programmes and standards so that they closely align with FPH’s vision, mission and objectives.
    •    Assemble, co-ordinate and signpost to other resources the key evidence, science, policy, advocacy and actions in line with the FPH’s vision, mission and objectives.  There are well quantified co-benefits of tackling climate change for the health of the public in multiple areas, both immediate and long term.
    •    Closely align this work with the National Strategy for Sustainable Development in the Health and Care system and other key strategies around the wider determinants of health by:
    •    reducing risks (extreme events and disaster reduction, improved air quality; safer roads; reduced emissions; smarter ways of preventing the preventable);
    •    improving resilience and developing sustainable assets (education, good housing; life-enhancing public spaces, resilient people, vibrant culture);
    •    ensuring every opportunity, plan, policy, and contact contributes to healthy lives, healthy communities and healthy environments now and in the future.
    •    reducing the environmental impact of the health and care system and highlighting the potential health co-benefits of doing so.
    •    Work in partnership with other organisations and networks to exchange ideas and expertise
    •    Embed all of this into the professional development of its members (an example of a key sustainability competency for FPH Specialists is provided at Appendix 3).
    •    Build alliances with people with a broad range of perspectives; you do not have to be a member of the Faculty of Public Health to join the SIG.  However, Faculty of Public Health members will determine the direction of the SIG and the way that it operates to ensure that it is in line with our professional practices.

    Progress
    •    The FPH is one of the leading UK organisations to publish on health, sustainable development and climate change.
    •    There is already a significant reference to climate change and sustainable development manifesto in the most recent manifesto from the FPH.
    •    A well consulted national cross system strategy exists for the entire health and care system which is closely aligned with the values and remit of FPH members.
    •    There is a clear commitment from the FPH on Environmental Sustainability & Public Health Training in the UK with placements available in organisations such as the Sustainable Development Unit. •    The new Public Health Training Curriculum (2015) recognises that sustainability is fundamental and cuts across the entire curriculum; and includes a new learning outcome, “Demonstrate leadership in environmental sustainability with a focus on the links to health and climate change”.
    •    And finally, FPH has close links with the Climate and Health Council and is a founder member of the Alliance of the newly formed Health Professionals Alliance for Combating Climate Change (HACC) 2015.

The new FPH SIG is now developing a strategic work plan that takes a whole system approach which addresses human activity and health in its social, environmental, economic and cultural complexity coordinate action and provide leadership and strong voice – to support the organisation internally and its members, fellows and partners more widely.

The time is right to seize the day, build on FPH’s work on Sustainable Development and assure the future.

With thanks to David Pencheon, Lindsey Stewart, Femi Biyibi, James Smith, Jane Beenstock, Jilla Burgess, Sue Atkinson and Simon Capewell and all participants for their contributions and encouragement.

  • by Professor Sue Atkinson
  • FPH Health and Sustainability SIG

I am in Paris – for COP 21.

COP 21 (21st Conference of the Parties) of the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are the negotiations between the 195 countries attending, to make a deal to curb emissions and keep global warming below 2°C.

I am not at the main COP negotiations in Le Bourget but at the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA) Health Summit and other parallel health meetings.

Unfortunately the timing of the Summit means I missed the FPH ‘Sustainable development and health’ SIG meeting in Nottingham on 4th December which followed the instigation of the SIG at the Faculty Conference in June.

People are starting to recognise the importance of health, climate change and sustainability and accepting what the Lancet commission identified in 2009, that ‘Climate Change (CC) could be the biggest global threat of the 21st Century’.

The Health Summit was the buzziest conference in ages. Over 500 people and oversubscribed, it was chaired (amusingly and with clear insights) by John Vidal (Environment Editor for the Guardian) and attendees included Health Ministers, the Deputy Mayor of Paris, WHO and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, the German equivalent of DFID), who both supported the conference (thank you), representatives of health and climate change groups and alliances from across the globe.

The presentations, parallel sessions and panel discussions were informative, interesting, lively, amusing, challenging and enjoyable with many interesting discussions taking place around the edges with an exchange of shared ideas and experiences to take back home.

Some of the snippets I picked up included:

  • Wales has a ‘Wellbeing of Future Generations Act’ and a commissioner to make things happen. It is one of only two countries with sustainability in its constitution.
  • California showed the importance of political leadership in Senator Kevin de Leon, who is introducing a variety of relevant bills and noted that air pollution is not just a public health issue but also a political and civil and human rights issue because of its inequities.
  • Air pollution is worst in poor areas and African American children have a 50% higher risk of being hospitalized and Latino children a 40% higher risk of death from asthma.
  • Health care systems are part of the problem. In USA they account for 8% of emissions. Hospitals across the globe are increasingly taking action to reduce energy usage (and costs) but much more needs to be done.
  • Reducing red meat consumption (and its procurement by hospitals and institutions) is good for health and the planet. The Buddhist Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan has moved to a plant based diet to improve health and the environment.
  • Cities are increasingly taking action on reducing emissions where states and countries are unable to reach agreements. In Paris over 100 mayors came together with the Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo calling for them to unite and work together to mitigate climate change. London has reduced its carbon emissions by 14% since 2008 but I am sure Bristol and elsewhere may be doing better.
  • The Paris Deputy Mayor – Bernard Jornier – clearly understands well the relationships between health, climate change and inequalities.
  • Goldman Sachs decreed in September 2015 that “Coal is in terminal decline”.
  • Using fossil fuels means there are more than seven million extra deaths per year.
  • The co-benefits of addressing health and climate change together are clear – e.g. increasing active travel – walking and cycling – is good for your health and good for the planet.

And much much more …

We have come a long way since COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, when those of us interested in health and climate change could fit around one small coffee table and it now feels as though the importance of health in the climate change negotiations is starting to make its mark.

CC science is real but it is often difficult to get our heads round and some of the environmental and other impacts seem like a long way off and we know that politicians and all of us (including teenagers) find it hard to recognise and take action on threats that are in the more distant future.

Health brings home the real story of the impact of climate change – imperative, immediate and life changing.

Families displaced because of floods and typhoons, children starving as a result of drought resulting in failing crops, older people dying in heat-waves, even as recently and as nearby as 15,000 deaths in France in 2003.

With 500 people still dying annually of Malaria, the 2.5 million people suffering from the disease could increase again to over four million with the spread of mosquitos due to climate change.People are sick and dying from lack of clean water as a result of either drought or destruction of infrastructure by severe storms and tsunamis.

Closer to home, just this weekend the floods in Cumbria have caused distress and destruction as well as the financial costs of these storms.  And of course the important links between climate change, disasters and water shortages, refugees and terrorism.

IMG_0867

Recent floods in the north of England (like York City Centre, pictured) have brought home the reality of climate change to the UK

The latest Lancet Commission (2015) identified that ‘Tackling CC could be the greatest health opportunity of the 21st century’.

The health summit felt both daunting and optimistic. We must act now.
The spoken word poet – Sophia Walker – captured it in her piece written for the Health Summit as “…we aren’t just talking about the weather” and suggested that nine billion people on the planet could work ‘miracles’ if they all did their bit.

We in public health must do ours, not just individually but in whatever ways we can through our building it into our daily work, e.g. identifying the co-benefits of improving health and the environment. It seems that at last the penny may be dropping that climate change and health are inexplicably linked.  What’s good for health is good for the planet.

References
Lancet Commission. 2009. “Managing the health effects of climate change”. Lancet and UCL Institute for Global Health Commission. April 2009.

Lancet Commission.2015. “Health and Climate Change: policy responses to protect public health” Lancet. June 2015.

  • By Ben Barr, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Applied Public Health Research, and David  Taylor-Robinson, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Public Health
  • University of Liverpool

To ‘save money’ to boost struggling health services the Chancellor has decided to cut funding for public health and prevention, reducing spending on public health as a proportion of all health expenditure from 3.5% in 2015 to 2.5% by 2020.

The government has reneged on its 2010 commitment to “re-balance the focus on the causes of ill health and ensure that public health funding is prioritised”. The flawed logic of cutting investment in cost saving preventative services, such as sexual health, family planning, smoking cessation, drug, alcohol and child health services is strikingly short sighted.

But what is even more worrying is that these cuts are likely to be greatest in the poorest areas with the greatest need, reversing progress that has been made to address health inequalities. From the late 1990s a systematic strategy was implemented in England to reduce differences in health between the most deprived parts of the country and more affluent areas.

One consequence of this strategy was to prioritise investment in public health in more deprived parts of the country, leading to levels of spending in these areas that are around two and a half times higher, per head of population, than in more affluent areas.

There is growing evidence that this strategy worked (1,2). Figure 1 shows decreasing absolute inequality in premature mortality between more affluent and more deprived local authorities (LAs) from the late 1990s onwards during the time of the health inequalities strategy. The strategy was associated with a reversal in the previous trend of increasing inequalities.

image001

Figure 1: difference in under 75 year old mortality, between most deprived and most affluent 20% of LAs (Source: Office for National Statistics)

The chancellor’s spending review outlines an average real terms cut in the public health budget of 3.9% each year over the next 5 years. This translates into a cash reduction of 9.6% in addition to the £200 million cut that was announced earlier this year. The implications for individual LAs will depend on the way the funding formula is applied and the decision about “pace of change”.

The Department of Health is currently consulting on a new formula for the public health allocation.  The application of this formula will reduce the share of resources going to more deprived areas relative to more affluent areas. This is because it allocates about twice the amount of resources per head to more deprived LAs compared to more affluent ones, whilst currently these areas receive about two and a half times the amount of resources per head.

There are a number of ways the Department of Health could distribute these cuts across LAs. They could apply a flat 9.6% cut to each LA over the next 5 years. This was the approach taken to allocating the cut of £200 million announced early this year, with each LA receiving a 6.2% cut. This approach will tend to widen inequalities, since the same percentage cut for an LA in a more deprived area, translates into a higher cut per head of population, compared to a more affluent LA. This is because more deprived LAs, with higher needs, have higher baseline funding than more affluent LAs.

But this approach would not involve using the new formula at all, and one might wonder what would be the point of having an allocation formula if its not going to be used. So a likely option would be to distribute the cuts so that those LAs most over target receive a higher cut than those most under target; over time moving all LAs towards their target allocation.  Since, on average, more deprived LAs are more likely to be assessed as ‘over target’ according to the new formula, this will tend to lead to even higher cuts in more deprived areas compared to just applying a flat percentage cut to all LAs.

In fact, all of the likely scenarios will hit the poorest areas hardest. Figure 2 below shows the cuts each year from 2015 experienced by the most affluent and most deprived 20% of LAs under 4 scenarios, (1) applying a the same percentage cut to all LAs, (2) applying a higher cut to more “over target” LAs but setting the maximum cut in any year for any LA at 4%, (3) applying a higher cut to more “over target” LAs but setting the maximum cut in any year at 8%,(4) applying a higher cut to more “over target” LAs so that all LAs reach their target allocation by 2020.

Note that these scenarios do not take into account the government’s additional proposal to fully fund local authorities’ public health spending from business rates which could further reduce funding in the poorest areas.

image002

Figure 2: planned cut in public health funds in most affluent and most deprived 20% of LAs under four potential scenarios for distributing the cuts (Sources: Local authority public health grant allocations 2015/16 – Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 – Duncan Selbie’s letter to LA CE)

The progress that has been made in recent years to reduce health inequalities shows that the level and distribution of public health resources makes a difference. Cutting public heath services in this manner makes no financial sense; it will harm the public’s health and will increase health inequalities.

 

1    Barr B, Bambra C, Whitehead M. The impact of NHS resource allocation policy on health inequalities in England 2001-11: longitudinal ecological study. BMJ 2014; 348: g3231–g3231.
2    Buck D, Maguire D. Inequalities in life expectancy – Changes over time and implications for policy. The Kings Fund, 2015 (accessed Nov 30, 2015).

  •  Helen Skirrow, Specialist Registrar in Public Health at Southwark and Lambeth Public Health team

Worlds AIDS Day will be marked on 1st December 2015. Though HIV is no longer the deadly disease associated with the initial epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, it remains an important public health issue today in the UK.

It is estimated that 103,700 people in the UK are living with HIV and around one fifth (17%) of these are thought to be unaware of their diagnosis. It is more common among men who have sex with men (MSM) and black African men and women. Geographically, high HIV prevalence is found in London and in pockets outside of the capita,l for example in Brighton and Hove and Manchester.

All but one of the London boroughs had a diagnosed HIV prevalence rate of above 2 per 1,000 in 2014.  This is  considered high and above the threshold for routine testing of new GP registrants, so HIV is a significant public health problem in London.

One of the key public health challenges is to improve the early diagnosis of HIV and thus prevent transmission and enable early treatment initiation. Late diagnosis of HIV is associated with higher mortality so ensuring that those at risk get tested is a priority. The number of people living with HIV continues to rise in the UK.  With the introduction of effective anti-retroviral therapy, if detected early people living with HIV can expect a near normal life expectancy.  However reducing the entrenched stigma associated the disease remains a challenge.

HIV prevention can be through a number of initiatives. Promoting consistent safe condom use is vital and needs to be focused particularly among key risk groups such as MSM.

Targeted and relevant safe sex messages are needed for MSM, particularly those  likely to engage in HIV transmission risky behaviours such as having multiple casual partners, making assumptions about HIV status, and those who recreationally use drugs prior or during sexual intercourse: termed ‘chemsex’.

Increasing HIV testing rates is also a key prevention initiative to reduce onward transmission and new innovative ways to improve access and uptake of HIV testing are being developed.

There are many national and local initiatives aimed at improving HIV testing rates and promoting safe sex. For example National HIV Testing week runs in the week prior to Worlds AIDS day and promotes HIV testing nationally. This year saw the launch of the ‘National HIV Self-Testing Service’, funded by local authorities in conjunction with Public Health England.

In the capital, where almost half of all HIV cases are diagnosed, ‘Do it London’ is the campaigning element of the multi-faceted London HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP). This is a London-wide sexual health promotion initiative aimed at increasing HIV testing and promoting safer sex to all residents in the capital, funded by every London borough according to their diagnosed HIV prevalence.

As well as the city-wide Do It London campaign to promote HIV testing, the LHPP also provides free and low-cost condoms in over 80 London gay clubs, bars and saunas, supported by a highly specialised gay men’s outreach service which targets high risk men for health promotion interventions and on-the-spot rapid HIV testing.

In Lambeth and Southwark, which experience high levels of sexually transmitted infections and the highest HIV rates in England, SH:24 is leading the way in improving access to sexual health screening for residents by using internet and telephone technologies to deliver sexual health care remotely, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

SH24 is fully integrated with local NHS services and enables Lambeth and Southwark residents who are concerned about their sexual health to log onto the SH24 website, receive health information, signposting to services and order a STI testing kit (including HIV) to be delivered to their home. They take a sample themselves at home, post it to the laboratory and receive results by text or from a local clinic depending on whether or not treatment is required.  User feedback has been overwhelming positive and activity has continued to increase since the service went live in March 2015.

Looking to the future of HIV prevention and management, easier access to testing is vital to reduce the burden of disease caused by late diagnoses.  Innovative solutions such as SH:24 will likely expand nationally and receive greater focus as these programs improve access to HIV testing whilst realising cost savings for local sexual health commissioners.

Many local authorities have signed up to the ‘Halve It’ initiative, including Lambeth and Southwark. This is a national coalition of experts brought together with the aim of tackling the public health challenges of HIV: namely halving the proportion of people diagnosed late with HIV and halving the proportion of people living with undiagnosed HIV by 2020. ‘Halve It’ is now also working with the London HIV Prevention Programme. Its shared aims should be recognised and endorsed by everyone working within public health in the UK.

Significant progress has been made over the last decade in the treatment of HIV. The challenge now is to ensure we work to achieve the aspirations set out in the Halve It campaign through a multi-faceted and targeted programme of increasing access to testing amongst high risk groups.

Key References

  • by Professor John Ashton, President, UK Faculty of Public Health

Based on a speech given by Professor Ashton at the Active Lifestyle, Healthy Lives Conference organised by Open Forum Events Manchester, which took place on 8th October 2015 at the Manchester Conference Centre.

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. People who engage in activity are more likely to live longer, healthier lives with reduced risk of developing serious life threatening conditions. And yet a recent report by the British Heart Foundation puts the UK lagging behind the rest of Europe. How can we wake up the nation to the dangers of inactivity and the benefits of exercise for health?

My good friend and mentor Professor Lowell Levin always points out that ‘the person who frames the question determines the range of solutions’. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of physical exercise. Are we talking about an active lifestyle and regular physical movement, sport and competition, physical Education and physical Culture, or ‘Muscular Christianity’? (1).

There is a recurring tension between a focus on whole population health and wellbeing, and a preoccupation with elite sport and excellence by the few. Government minister Michael Gove has spoken of ‘creating a sporting habit for life’ yet how many of us played competitive sport last weekend in contrast to those who went for a walk, rode a bike or did the garden? On occasions like this I am reminded of one iteration of the Sport for All theme in the late 1970s. Living in Hampshire at the time, as a family we were in the habit of taking the children to the swimming baths on a Sunday morning. On this particular Sunday we arrived at the sports centre to find ourselves excluded from participation by a ‘Sport for All’ demonstration by proficient swimmers! ‘Sport for All’ or ‘Sport for Some’?

With monotonous regularity we seem to oscillate between policies addressed at the many that fade when we are approaching the Commonwealth or Olympic Games, when the resources available magically disappear to be focused on the best prospects for gold medals and the nebulous hope of an ‘Olympic legacy’. And the confusion between competitive sport and a physically active citizenry goes on and on.

During the recent Conservative Party conference in Manchester, competitive sport played a prominent part in framing the political agenda  with Boris Johnson celebrating the joys of the rugby scrum. Johnson appears to have said that “our lives are a gigantic collective effort, in which one person’s bulk (mentioning no names), makes up for another person’s slightness and where everyone is so tightly bound together that one person’s forward progress drives another person”.

Meanwhile, according to the Daily Mirror, rugby legend Lawrence Dallaglio told the Conservative Party that rugby “…can build (children’s) character and give them a chance to make something of their lives”. Whilst not doubting Dallaglio’s commitment and sincerity, he appears not to have read Allyson Pollock’s recent indictment of the price the nation’s children are paying  by being forced to play the increasingly dangerous contact sport of rugby (2).

At a recent conference organised by the Epidemiology and Public Health section of the Royal Society of Medicine (3), an audience heard from speakers, many of whom were passionate rugby fans, of the crisis of concussion and injury facing a game increasingly characterised by very heavy, very fast players in life changing collisions, the association with brain damage and dementia and the increasing threat of major court action facing the viability of schools and sporting bodies.

The conference also heard that it doesn’t have to be like this and that many children, given the choice, will opt for participating in other activities that are fun and celebrate movement, friendship and the opportunity to show off a range of skills. As one speaker put it, ‘if they enjoy it they will come back’. If they did, we would be able to help them adopt a healthy lifestyle for life.

Perhaps the need for change is best summed up by a recent speech by Neil Rollings, who was a Director of Sport in HMC schools for 21 years, and is the chairman of the Professional Association of Directors of Sport at Independent Schools (4).  He told the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference that:

“More people of my generation learned to hate team games at school than learned to love them. But there was an acceptance that sport was as democratic as North Korea. Not everyone plays team games in society. Not everyone is compelled to play team games but there are a variety of alternatives, some of which are competitive and some of which aren’t.”

He continued: “British-style independent schools are the only sporting environment in the world where participation in team games is compulsory. For over 100 years, schools have hidden some shabby provision, especially for the less able, behind compulsion and an unsubstantiated view that pain and discomfort somehow ‘makes a man of you’ through a process unknown to science.”

Meanwhile, a letter in The Times from former England rugby player Jim Roberts (1960-64), provides perspective: ‘with the current laws and levels of injury I hate to think what the current players will be like when they are 50. I would not play today’.

In this context it is worth a look at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport consultation on A New Strategy for Sport. At first sight it seems promising with endorsement and contributions from no fewer than nine government ministers. But it is soon apparent which tail is wagging the dog – it is basically about competitive sport and another missed opportunity (5).

We have a problem: sedentary living combined with an ageing population mean we have a significant burden of avoidable physical and mental ill health where an active lifestyle would make a difference. Competitive sport may have a part to play but it is probably limited and it can have serious downsides. And the spectre of the ‘Nanny State’ places limits on the ability of government to intervene on behalf of the population. Although it now seems that both the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and former Health Secretary Andy Burnham are both on the same page in agreeing that when it comes to children, nannies are legitimate. So what is needed?

My view as a public health practitioner is that we need to return to our roots and reconnect a health and wellbeing life cycle approach to town and country planning. The cliche of making the healthy choices the easy choices applies here as to much else where behaviour impacts on individual and societal wellbeing. We need to re-engineer our cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods to make active life easy and the norm.

Walking, cycling and being out and about, gardening and allotment holding, exploring the great British outdoors: these are as much part of the fabric of British life as rugby and hockey. But importantly they can be enjoyed well past the time when compulsory school sport is a faded memory. 21st century living requires us to address this challenge with the same vigour as our predecessors dealt with the slums and urban squalor. It requires vision, leadership and a practical prism to assess all policy and development from the perspective of active life. Other countries are leading the way. Let’s not be left behind (6).

References         

(1) Wikipedia defines Muscular Christianity as ‘ ..a Christian life of brave and cheerful physical activity especially as popularly associated with the writings of Charles Kingsley and with boys public schools of the Victorian British Empire … a Christian commitment to piety and physical health basing itself on the new testament which sanctions the concepts of character and Wellbeing’.

(2) Tackling Rugby -what every parent should know about injuries, Allyson M Pollock, Verso, London 2015.

(3) Tackling school sports injury meeting, Monday 14 September 2015, RSM

(4) Parental pressure ‘threatens team games at school’, (£), The Times, 8 October 2015.

(5) A New Strategy for Sport: Consultation Paper August 2015 Department for Culture,Media and Sport

(6) Built environment and physical activity – a briefing statement ,Faculty of Public Health, 2013

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