PHE chief Duncan Selbie on new regional directors and the link between health and wealth

Written by Civil Service World on 31 December 2019 in Feature
Feature

As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories

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What was your highlight of 2019?

The launch of Every Mind Matters, a world-first digital programme to help people, and those they care for, cope better with everyday trouble with sleeping, low moods, stress and anxiety – giving good mental health the same importance that has always been given to good physical health. More than 300,000 people completed a “mind plan” in the first week, rising to more than 600,000 in our first month. This is public mental health in action and it was a privilege to have the Royal Family, Richard Curtis and a whole host of celebrities and some of Britain’s biggest companies supporting our awareness drive.

I am also immensely proud of our work as the UK focal point for the International Health Regulations and of our colleagues posted in Africa and Asia to assist with global health security through strengthening their public health capacity and capability. Working overseas can be very demanding but always rewarding and is an essential contribution to helping keep people safe at home in the UK.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?

I would choose the recreation of the director of public health role in the seven new regional leadership teams of the NHS. These were removed during the 2013 NHS reforms and this back-to-the-future step is about connecting the statutory duty that local government has to improve people’s health with the NHS priority to make the prevention of poor health genuinely centre stage. Funded through internal moves, the new regional directors of public health will act as the conscience and focal point for making this a reality.

Income remains the greatest determinant of health outcome, and health and wealth are two sides of the same coin.

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?

We need to see economic growth and prosperity reach every part of England. This is because income remains the greatest determinant of health outcome, and health and wealth are two sides of the same coin. The Industrial Strategy recognises this through a range of measures to stimulate growth and create new jobs that local people can get – a leading focus in the Prevention Green Paper. PHE is supporting a health in all policies approach across government and locally through the combined authorities, elected mayors and integrated care systems – recognising that no one organisation can achieve this, but together we can.

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...

My youth was a long time ago, but Scotland has two bank holidays at New Year to allow sufficient recovery time from the celebrations...

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