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Are you interested in creating better mental health for all?  If so, please join our first ever joint Public Health and Psychiatry conference on 10 May at Queen Mary’s University, London, focusing on Prevention: What Works? 

What do we mean by Better Mental Health For All 

When mental health makes the headlines it is often owing to healthcare concerns, for example long waiting times for accessing care.  This focus on responding to mental illness is very important, but when considered in isolation it can distort a wider population view of mental health and well-being – one that we are all part of, affected by, and is heavily influenced by our social and economic environment.  Public mental health focuses on mental health improvements for all population groups, as well as targeted and universal approaches to preventing and reducing mental illness. 

So what is the conference about? 

This unique occasion will bring together colleagues from across public health and psychiatry to reflect on and develop plans for how we can continue to collaborate in the creation of better mental health for all.  This will include listening to a range of eminent speakers from across the UK share fascinating examples of collective approaches to improving population mental health, such as: 

  1. The introduction of minimum alcohol pricing in Ireland  
  2. The role of social prescribing  
  3. How different public services are taking innovative and collaborative steps to address adverse childhood experiences.  

The conference will also give attendees a platform to share ideas and perspectives across specialties with regards to the opportunities and challenges of collaborative working.  There is arguably a never more important time for this conference in terms of capitalising on the growing political and societal focus on mental health, as demonstrated in policy documents such as the NHS Long Term Plan.  

What opportunities does this conference offer?  

We asked others across psychiatry, public health and academia:  

Across the whole life span, early life experiences impact on the quality of our relationships, mental health and life chances.   Working in liaison psychiatry in the diverse communities of Luton and Watford, this has been illustrated on a daily basis by the people presenting in crisis in Emergency Departments.  Despite political focus, huge inequalities persist for the people using our services and far too few benefit from timely preventive interventions.  Primary prevention is vital, but so too are secondary and tertiary prevention strategies as there is much need, right now.   Having met many people in both specialties, I believe this truly is a ‘meeting of minds’: two specialties with different skills but shared values.   I’m excited to see how this collaboration develops.

Carol Wilson, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, East London NHS Foundation Trust 

Mental health problems have a huge impact on population health, causing significant distress and impairment to large numbers of individuals and their families, as well as having a broader social and economic impact. At the same time, positive mental health and resilience can bring great benefits to the individual and society. Joint working across public health and mental health settings, including the policy, research and practice arenas, is important to help maximise population well-being and to limit the public health impact of mental distress.

Associate Professor John Powell, University of Oxford 

Public mental health still feels in its infancy with much that is untested and contested. There is an imperative to bring the skills of public health and the understanding of psychiatry together to agree jointly what works when and for whom, to improve mental health for everyone. Before the spotlight fades.

Niran Rehill, Specialty Registrar in Public Health, London Kent Surrey & Sussex Training Scheme ST5 

Why is this conference needed?  

One of my main motivations for pursuing a career in public health was to tackle the physical health inequalities experienced by people with mental health problems. During my time working as a mental health nurse I witnessed how the physical health needs of individuals experiencing mental health problems were often neglected, particularly in relation to their health-related behaviours (e.g. smoking, alcohol, diet and physical activity). This conference is an important platform in which to develop joint strategies to address physical health inequalities amongst people with mental health problems.

Claire Mawditt, Public Health Specialty Registrar, ST2 

From listening to mental health service users, their families and those caring for them, there seems to be two predominant conversations gaining traction. Firstly, the potential for community organisations to contribute to preventing and supporting population mental health such as schools, sports clubs, barbers, gardening groups and parenting forums. Secondly, the growing recognition of the importance of a life course approach to mental health to build capacity in early identification of mental health problems and early support. The conference provides a platform to take these conversations further to develop a trans-disciplinary approach to addressing these issues.  

Lucie Collinson, Public Health Specialty Registrar, ST5. 

Written by Laura Austin Croft, Lucie Collinson and Claire Mawditt on behalf of the Faculty of Public Health Public Mental Health Special Interest Group.  

The conference is at Queen Mary’s University (E1 4NS) from 10am to 4pm and is free to attend, but places are rapidly running outPlease book a place by clicking here

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National Stalking Awareness Day 2019_AW-01.jpgThe Suzy Lamplugh Trust is due to host a Stalking Awareness Conference on 9 April 2019 in London. The timing of the Conference is pertinent, as it follows the passage of the Stalking Protection Bill in March 2019, designed to strengthen the law and protect victims of stalking.  

This year’s Conference theme is about stalking as a public health issue, which will present opportunities for policy makers, practitioners and experts within the health community across government departments, clinical commissioning groups and local government to meet and begin contributing to dialogue and solutions to mitigate the sheer impact of stalking.    

A joint report on key findings from ‘Stalking and Health – Understanding the impact’ (based on a survey conducted between January and March 2019), will be launched at the Conference. The report by the National Stalking Consortium (which includes the Alice Ruggles Trust, Suzy Lamplugh Trust and National Centre for Cyberstalking Research amongst other stakeholders) will highlight statistics and conditions on mental health due to stalking. It concludes that front line teams (across all public services) need guidance and training enabling them to better assist those being stalked – thereby reducing cases of PTSD, depressions, as well as femicides on what is a largely gendered crime. 

Suzy Lamplugh Trust defines Stalking as “A pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour which is intrusive and causes fear of violence or engenders alarm and distress in the victim”.

Stalking is a public health issue which has a huge impact on health and well being of victims. It differs from harassment in that a perpetrator of stalking will be obsessed with or have a fixation on the individual(s) they are targeting. Stalking can take place in many forms, affecting all aspects of everyday life. 

Research has shown: 

  • Stalking is one of the most common forms of interpersonal violence in the UK affecting 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men across their lifetime
  • A reported 1.1 million people experience stalking in England and Wales each year; 734,000 women and 388,000 men.
  • Those experiencing stalking can display symptoms in line with PTSD, anxiety and depression

Suzy Lamplugh Trust has been influencing UK policy for over two decades; including campaigning for the introduction of the Protection of Harassment Act 1997, amended in 2012 to make stalking a criminal offence for the first time. In 2019, the Law around stalking was strengthened to further protect victims at an early stage. The Trust has been running the National Stalking Helpline since its launch in 2010, supporting around 30,000 victims of stalking so far.  

Our work continues, and the National Stalking Awareness Conference 2019 aims to highlight the impact of stalking; challenge and improve existing understanding of stalking within the Health sector for victims as well as perpetrators and focus on addressing the lack of specialist health services for victims of stalking. Please find more information and book your ticket here. 

Written by Sara Hindley, Training and Marketing Assistant, Suzy Lamplugh Trust.

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Claire GilbertItWorld TB Day on 24 March 2019.  Tuberculosis (TB) is preventable and curable, and World TB Day falls on 24 March each year, commemorating the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch first announced he had discovered the bacterium causing TB.  Global efforts to tackle TB make a difference and are estimated to have saved 54 million lives from TB since 2000. 

However, World TB Day is an annual reminder that TB remains a huge threat to public health worldwide.  The World Health Organisation still describe it as the world’s ‘deadliest infectious killer’, as every day nearly 4,500 people lose their lives to TB, that’s about 1 every 20 seconds.  In England, a Collaborative Strategy introduced in 2015 has resulted in a fall in TB rates and numbers, but there are concerns that without the continued collaborative efforts and funding to continue addressing this as a public health priority we’ll regress back to previous rising trends when this strategy comes to an end in 2020. 

The World Health Organisation has launched a joint initiative Find. Treat. All. #EndTB with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership with the aim of scaling up the TB response and ensuring universal access to TB prevention and care.  This World TB Day, the WHO calls for partners around the world to unite forces under the banner ‘Find. Treat. All. #EndTB’ to ensure no-one is left behind.  The theme this year is ‘it’s time’, emphasising the urgency to act on commitments made by global leaders to: 

  • scale up access to prevention and treatment
  • build accountability
  • ensure sufficient and sustainable financing including for research
  • promote an end to stigma and discrimination
  • promote an equitable, rights-based and people-centered TB response

Across Yorkshire and Humber, there are a wide range of World TB activities to raise awareness of the continuing threat of this disease spanning across multiple organisations such as:

  • Lighting up buildings across the region as part of ‘Light up the World for TB’  
  • Digital and rolling posters at Leeds City Council and at bus shelters  
  • A health bus to promote TB awareness, provide clinical support from TB nurses and translator services in Dewsbury and Huddersfield, and another health bus in Sheffield 
  • Social media promotion across the region. 
  • Letters sent to all community pharmacists across Kirklees, with an article in their bulletin, asking to support the LTBI programme by displaying posters sent to each pharmacy 
  • Clinical Commissioning Group and practice staff bulletins in Bradford 
  • Stalls at Girlington Community Centre and other sites throughout Bradford
  • Practice protected time outs about TB, the latent TB programme and World TB Day 
  • TB nurse interview on Sangham Community radio, which drew an audience of almost 185,000 listeners 
World TB Day

Leeds Town Hall on ‘Light up the World for TB’ on World TB Day 2018

Colleagues and I from Public Health England and local authorities will be running a symposium at our annual regional Association of Directors of Public Health Sector-Led Improvement conference on what local authorities can do to tackle TB and what support can Public Health England offer. We will be focusing on people with TB who have nowhere to live and no recourse to public funds as this poses a particular challenge.  There is no nationally agreed pathway for providing accommodation for these people, yet without the basics like somewhere to live there is no way we can effectively and humanely treat these vulnerable people and prevent spread to others. We hope to pull together a resource of information for local commissioners trying to develop pathways to address this issue. 

It’s time to find, treat and end TB for all! 

Written by Claire Gilbert, Public Health Specialty Registrar.

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“Deafness separates people from people”  Helen Keller  

Karen SaundersHearing loss is highly prevalent and can have profound effects not only on communication, but also on health, wellbeing and quality of life for individuals, families and communitiesOn Thursday 6 December 2018, at the Curzon Cinema in Oxford, the Public Health Film Society in conjunction with the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Public Health England  and Oxfordshire County Council kicked off the start of the 3rd Public Health Film Festival with a screening of the Oscar winning film “The Silent Child”. The aim was to raise awareness of hearing loss in children and its potential for significant personal, social and economic impact 

The short film was introduced by the film’s writer and producer Rachel Shenton. It explores the tensions and differences in expectations between the hearing family of a young deaf girl and her specialist teacher who attemptto nurture and improve the child’s communication skills and ability to interact and connect with others.  The family however remained resistant to learning sign language and did not have high expectations for their daughter.   

Following the film, a panel of experts engaged in discussion with the audience and the film proved most effective in galvanizing debate on this important public health priority. The ensuing debate covered issues including: 

  1. Policy: at national level there is PHE’s screening and prevention programme offering hearing tests to newborn babies and children to identify any problems early on in their development along with PHE’s wider work around speech and language.  NHS England and others produced an Action Plan on Hearing Loss” to support services for deaf people and others recommending ways that services can be improved. 
  2. Partnerships: further integrated and holistic approaches should be developed with more joined up approaches across services to reduce, for example, developmental and educational gaps and to increase personalised care planning.   
  3. Awareness and understanding: work to strengthen understanding amongst the public and professionals including dispel the myth that deafness is a learning disability given deaf children have the potential to achieve the same as any other child with the right support 
  4. Data and intelligenceenhance the quality of data collection and monitor this more effectively to better understand social, financial and personal health implications. 
  5. Resources: the direct cost to the NHS of managing hearing loss is estimated to cost up to £450 million a year. The Minister of State for Children and Families reported councils were given £223m extra funding to pay for the biggest reforms to special needs education in a generation, with new education, health and care plans tailored to the needs of every child; however the Consortium for Research into Deaf Education reported the number of teachers of the deaf had been cut by 14% in the past seven years, at the same time as a 31% increase in the number of children requiring support.  

The panel was chaired by Uy Hoang, President, Public Health Film Society. The experts on the panel were: 

  • Richard Kuziara, Health Improvement Practitioner, Oxford County Council 
  • Karen Saunders, Health and Wellbeing Programme Lead/Public Health Specialist, Public Health England (West Midlands)  
  • Alison Kahn, research and tutorial fellow in material culture and film at Stanford University in Oxford and Director of the Oxford Documentary Film Institute 

This briefing will be shared widely and feedback is welcomed. If you’d like to read the briefing, please contact Uy via email: publichealthfilmsociety@gmail.com. 

Written by Karen Saunders, Health and Wellbeing Programme Lead/Public Health Specialist, Public Health England (West Midlands) and Co-Chair of FPH’s Children and Young People Special Interest Group. 

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The second Wessex Public Health Conference, to be held on March 15th at St Mary’s Football Ground in Southampton, poses the question ‘Are we getting serious about prevention?’, as per the Five Year Forward View and the NHS Long-Term Plan.

Our annual conference draws colleagues from across the breadth of the public health
community in Hampshire, Dorset, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands, including staff in local authorities, NHS services and academics from our local universities. The conference is organised by a Wessex-wise public health collaboration and is led by Health Education England (HEE) and this year we have been greatly
oversubscribed with 250 delegates confirmed to attend.

The conference themes pose critical questions to our professional community. Are we doing enough to act on basic needs, mitigating the effects of poverty and ensuring access to basic requirements of food, clean air and housing? What are the threats and opportunities in public mental health and what more should we be doing? Given our skills in system leadership how can we use these to influence the direction of policy and service reconfiguration towards prevention? We are delighted that three eminent and influential keynote speakers have agreed to introduce the debates around
these issues:

  1. Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of ‘The Inner Level: how more equal societies
    reduce stress, restore sanity and improve everyone’s well-being’;
  2. David Buck, Senior Fellow of Public Health and Inequalities at the Kings Fund;
  3. Dr Julie Rugg from the Centre for Housing Policy, University of York.

We will have four streams of workshops and oral paper sessions running throughout the day, including in addition to the three above, a fourth open stream on local public health action. There was an enthusiastic response to the call for abstracts so we have a full programme of four workshops on System Leadership, Air Quality, Mental Health in Teenagers, and Housing and Homelessness; and over 30 oral presentations in other sessions. There will also be 40 posters which will be judged to award the Best Poster Prize of the day, as well as a full range of Exhibition stands.

We are also very pleased to welcome FPH President, Professor John Middleton, and FPH CEO, James Gore, who will be running a lunch time meeting for all delegates to have
the opportunity to discuss professional issues with them. Also this year we have teamed up with the Saints Foundation, the charitable arm of the football club, who will be offering lunchtime fitness activities.

The conference is seen as a key development opportunity for our Specialist Registrars, some of whom have helped in planning and ensuring that we have a clear sustainability policy to minimise the environmental effects of the conference. The planning committee has been a collaboration across our public health teams, academics and PHE colleagues and we are grateful for their involvement and all the contributions to make a success of the day.

Written by Dr Viv Speller on behalf of the Wessex Public Health Conference 2019 Planning Committee. The agenda for this year’s conference is available here. 

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At FPH’s Annual Conference 2017 in Telford, I learned about recent medical evidence and forthcoming research that widely acknowledges the value of Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) –  including Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). 

Animal-assisted therapy is an alternative therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. According to Nagasawa et al, social interaction with dogs can increase the level of oxytocin – the happy hormone – in humans. This is known as amazing gaze, or oxytocin gaze. 

Dr Sigmund Freud, a pioneer in the field of psychology, often had his pet dog, Jofi at his side during psychotherapy sessions with patients. According to several reports on the topic, Freud himself was more relaxed when the dog was with him but he noticed that the presence of the dog had a positive impact on his patients too. 

However, the concept of pet therapy was conceptualised by child psychologist, Dr Boris Levinson. According to several reports on the topic, he noticed by chance that sessions with one of his patients were more productive when his dog Jingles was in the room.  

While there are more than 50,000 Therapy Dogs in the United States and Canada, the role of Therapy Dogs in the UK is slowly but surely gaining popularity; namely in airports, schools and even hospitals. 

Here are some examples of our furry friends helping humans in their role as therapy dogs across the UK: 

  1. Harley was the first therapy dog to be introduced at Aberdeen Airport to calm passengers before their flights 
  2. Bella the Staffordshire bull terrier is a former stray dog who spends four days per week at  Shirebrook Academy in Derbyshire. The dog – who has her own tie and timetable  helps children with mental health issues and those on the autism spectrum.  
  3. In Eastbourne, another dog called Bella won the ‘Inspiration’ Award at the More Radio Eastbourne Awards 2017, by the brother of a patient who had suffered a stroke. On her ward round the hospital, Bella visits patients across all the departments but is particularly appreciated on the stroke and dementia wards. Donna Bloodworth, Stroke Unit Matron said: Research has suggested that introducing a companion animal into therapy session can result in patients feeling more at ease, enhancing communicative tendency and motivating to engage in therapy. Bella and [her owner] Barry have touched many people’s lives by coming into the ward.” 

All of these stories show that pet therapy or pet ownership can have significantly positive effects on a person’s mental health and well-being. I can see how a dog could also play an important role in helping people struggling to find a sense of community – particularly in cities like London where demanding lifestyles, unjustifiably high rents and a lack of social housing make it hard to find a place to call home.  

Sharon Hall of Noah’s Art  has been extremely helpful in enlightening me about the unique approach in AAT for a variety of needs: empathy, stress, emotional comfort and mindfulness. Moose, a spaniel and the centre’s resident dog therapist was absolutely captivating. Personally, I had an amazing experience with a brilliant Dalmatian called Mr Bond who I photographed as part of a photo competition. I was introduced to Mr Bond by David Allen, formed CEO of FPH, who commissioned me to photograph former FPH President, Professor John Ashton, for his President’s Portrait. 

Written by Ray of Light, London Photographer and a friend of FPH. Click here to read more about Ray and how you can commission him.  If you’d like to learn more about the positive impact that dogs can have on the public’s health, click here. 

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Uy HoangThe third edition of the Public Health Film Festival recently took place in Oxford and was host to award-winning films from the International Public Health Film Competition supported by the Faculty of Public Health, Public Health England, The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Ethics and Humanities.

The public health film competition was more popular than ever, with over 550 films from 72 countries submitted for consideration. Members of the Public Health Film Society scored the films using a list of ten criteria previously published in the Journal of Public Health and a shortlist of 15 films was put forward for consideration by a committee of experts from the world of film and public health, including Professor John Middleton from the Faculty.

The judges’ award for the best health film this year was shared jointly by Budh (Awakening) a powerful film and directorial debut of Indian Director, Prashant Ingole, that tells the story of three women from different corners of India and their struggles against barriers that bind women in this vast country; and Buddy Joe, an entertaining animation from French director, Julien David that imagines how an elderly artists suffering from Parkinson’s Disease tells his step-son about his disease.

The highly commended award was given to Sarah Holloway for her documentary film, Lucy: Breaking the Silence which movingly recalls the story Lucy Rayner who took her own life, the effect on her family and the issue of mental health among young people in the UK.

The film festival offered audiences the opportunity to see most of these films for the first time in UK, to talk with film-makers about their motivations for making them and share the journey they have taken to make and showcase their films.

In addition this year, The Public Health Film Society (PHFS) in collaboration with the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities introduced an award for the health film that was most well received by the audience at the festival. This inaugural audience award was won by Lucy: Breaking the Silence and was presented by Professor John Middleton to Sarah Holloway, the film’s director.

On behalf of the FPH Public Health Film Special Interest Group (SIG), I can say that we are delighted with the success of the International Public Health Film Competition this year. It clearly shows that there is a high level of interest in health films among the artistic community and a global pool of talent working on health films and we are honoured to provide these films-makers with a platform to showcase their award winning work and share their experience.

Written by Dr Uy Hoang, Chair of the FPH Public Health Film SIG and President of the Public Health Film Society

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