Archive for June, 2018

#futureofpublichealth: this is the first in a series of blogs that aims to champion the prevention delivered in NHS settings as part of the NHS at 70 celebrations and FPH’s public health funding campaign

Caroline Bovey BDA

“This week is the fifth annual British Dietetic Association (BDA) Dietitians Week, when the dietetic profession come together to spread the word about our work and profession. Our theme this year is “Dietitians Do Prevention”. All four nations in the UK have identified improving prevention and public health as a key component of the future NHS.

There is a growing drive for more resource in prevention and public health activities as a means to managing pressures on clinical and social care services, and increasing the sustainability of provision.

Public Health Dietetic practice is my own specialist area. For some time, it has felt as though this area has been somewhat on the fringe, seen as less complex and as somehow less critical than clinical work. But now, the role that public health practice is being seen as valuable in its own right. The skills that dietitians hold in negotiating complexity in practice and their skills as influencers are greatly needed.

Although we may not always use the same language to describe it, we know that all dietitians already “do prevention”. They employ Healthy Conversations in their day to day work, they embrace MECC (Making Every Contact Count) principles utilising brief advice and brief intervention methods, and that social media spaces offer great opportunities for dietitians to share public health messages and information. Indeed, we’re sharing plenty of examples and case studies on social media this week, and are pleased the Faculty of Public Health will be joining us to share these messages.

Prevention and public health are going to be priorities beyond Dietitians Week. I recently launched it as the Chairman’s Theme at BDA Live, the BDA’s bi-annual conference. “Go to Dietitians for Prevention” will focus the Associations attention on driving this agenda and gives us opportunities to influence stakeholders, politicians and the public in a variety of ways.

The theme will be multifaceted, with public facing elements such as our recent Twitter campaign with Diabetes UK and Beat Flu focusing on promoting free flu jabs for people with a very high BMI. We also have examples of grass roots actions by BDA members. The creation of the Twitter hash tags #WhatDietitansDo or #WhatRDsDo toward the end of last year had a reach of many hundreds of thousands and continues to be a powerful way of highlighting and sharing best practice amongst the profession. Of course, social media offers ideal forums for dietitians to engage in public health messaging – the mere act of talking about our work, including newly emerging and evolving practice, spreads our influence.

But social media campaigns won’t be enough on their own and we must think about how we are designing our services; does everything need to be done directly by dietitians for example, is a check that we should be asking frequently. Many health authorities now employ dietitians to help build capacity in others. Supporting knowledge and skills development in other health and social care professionals and volunteers is an ideal way to spread evidence-based nutrition messages and specifically targeting colleagues who have food, nutrition and hydration in their roles, gives us the chance to significantly increase the number of people with the right skills.

We also recognise the need to work with others to highlight the importance of prevention and public health and campaign for more support for this important area of healthcare. This is why we are pleased to be working more closely with the Faculty of Public Health in the coming years and supporting their own campaigns.

As the incoming Chairman of the BDA, I have spent the last twelve months undergoing a steep learning curve. As I have become more involved with the work of the Association I can better understand the breadth of challenges facing us and our profession. The challenges are not, of course, unique to Dietetics but that doesn’t mean that we should assume there is little that we can do.

The time is right for this theme! I’m very excited about Dietitians Week 2018 which will hopefully kick start a much greater recognition of the role of dietitians as “go to” professionals for prevention and public health.”

Written by Caroline Bovey RD BEM, Public Health Dietitian and BDA Chair-Elect.

Note from FPH: As we celebrate the NHS at 70, many in the health community are taking this moment to ask some big questions about the kind of future we envision for our health system and the level of funding support necessary to realise it. We believe that public health and prevention must be central in this national debate about the future of NHS funding and we’d like your support to help us make that case. If you’re an FPH member or work in the NHS delivering prevention, please consider joining our ‘sounding board’ of members and clinicians who are helping us develop policy on this issue. For more info, please email policy@fph.org.uk or click here.

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paul pic global running day

parkrun was a small idea with a small p that has grown into something I could never have imagined when I started the first parkrun in London’s Bushy Park in 2004. In fact, it was only ever intended to be a single event and for the first two years it was. I still find it hard to believe that it has captured the imagination of three million people around the world who have walked, run and volunteered at a parkrun event.

parkruns are free, timed, 5k events that are coordinated entirely by volunteers and take place in public areas of open space every Saturday morning. Each parkrun is held every week, in the same place, throughout the year, and most events finish near a local cafe for the all the important post-parkrun socialising.

A parkrun isn’t a race – it’s a timed 5k event for walkers, runners, volunteers or, if you’re not quite sure about the idea just yet, spectators as well! The best kept secret of parkrun is that it isn’t really about the running at all – it’s the people who you meet along the way.

Back in the beginning, I was a keen club runner with a long term injury who missed the social side that comes with being part of a running club. I wanted to do something to fill that void in my life, so I invited a group of my friends to run a 5k loop in our local park, which I would time and publish the results, and then we would go for a coffee afterwards in the park cafe. My friends could run, and I could see them – it sounded like a good idea to me!

There were less than 20 of us on that overcast morning in 2004 – 13 runners and five volunteers in fact. In early 2007 when our numbers had increased beyond 300, we started a second event at nearby Wimbledon Common. Far from splitting the numbers however, it created a whole new community. Before long there were volunteers in Leeds, Wales and Scotland who asked to replicate the idea in their communities, and in 2009 we expanded to Denmark, our first international territory. And the rest as they say is history.

Last weekend, more than 250,000 people at 1,500 locations across 20 countries took part in parkrun.

On the surface the parkrun concept is incredibly simple and the format hasn’t changed since that first morning – free, timed, weekly, 5k, for everyone who wants to take part. What has changed however is the way that we have evolved from attracting mainly club runners in the very beginning to people from all walks of life.

Over time we have gradually broken down many of the traditional barriers to taking part in in regular physical activity, and we’ve grown to a stage where we can proactively engage with the people who are the least likely to take part in physical activity and volunteering – and therefore potentially have the most to benefit from it.

Families can take part together, you can run with your dog on a short lead, walkers are supported by a volunteer Tail Walker, support groups for 10 different disabilities and long term health conditions have been established to facilitate involvement with parkrun, and participation is recognised rather than performance – milestone shirts for 50,100, 250 and 500 completed parkruns, and for volunteering 25 times, provide a significant incentive for many parkrunners.

There is still so much more that we need to do to change what it means, and looks like, to be physically active, but we are on the right track. I genuinely believe that parkrun can help to make the world a healthier and happier place, and we’ve only just begun…

Written by parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE. To find out more about parkrun and to locate your nearest event, click here.

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Stoke Speaks Out was recently the proud recipient of the Advancing Healthcare FPH and PHE award for contribution to Public Health for creating a whole systems approach to tackling speech and language delay across the City of Stoke on Trent.

Our Stoke Speaks Out initiative, based in Stoke-on-Trent and funded by Stoke Local Authority, was commended for the impact we are having on children’s communication development at population level. This is timely in light of the ‘Bercow 10 years on’ review looking at services for children with speech/language and communication needs.

‘Stoke Speaks Out’ is a city-wide, multi-agency approach ensuring children living in areas of high deprivation, receive the best start in life to develop early language and communication skills.

The project, which was started in 2004 and has now developed into a ‘strategy’, focuses on ‘Healthy Beginnings’ and is run by our small multi-agency team. I provide the leadership and am seconded from Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust speech/language therapy department. The core specialist service understands the importance of engaging at Universal and targeted level to ensure the specialist part of the service reaches those who need it most. Our project includes a training programme for the ‘early years’ workforce that emphasises the importance of early attachment and positive parenting on children’s development. Our team is made up of speech and language therapists, communication champions, early years practitioners, reading champions and a project officer.

We are particularly proud of our innovative Early Communication Screen (ECS) tool to improve the school readiness of children from two to five. This is designed to be used by Early Years practitioners who are trained by SLTs in a one-off ECS session, as well as through ongoing support. The screen is designed to identify early language delay and measure children’s progress over time. As a result, practitioners can plan appropriate and targeted interventions.

Over 8,000 children have been screened to date, and taking just 5-10 minutes per child, this is a cost effective, efficient method of early identification which empowers practitioners to detect and support language issues early. We have, to date, trained more than 1,800 regional practitioners to use it.

At the beginning of our school readiness initiative in 2016 only 35% children were on track with their language development. Within 11 months we could quickly demonstrate the impact of our work with 54% children on track. Having a clear picture of the level and detail of need has been really valuable for targeting services and being able to monitor the impact of the work is crucial to future planning. As Stoke is an area of high social deprivation this links strongly to the Department for Education’s social mobility plan and offers a solution to improving children’s outcomes.

Winning the award has been a real boost to the team morale. The team are extremely proud and passionate about their work and are thrilled that this has been recognised nationally. This has led to national interest in our work and enabled us to support other AHPs (allied health professionals) in public health developments.

Written by Janet Cooper, clinical lead speech/language therapist at Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust and lead for Stoke Speaks Out.


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