With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.
What was your highlight of 2018?
The launch of the ambitious childhood obesity plan, chapter 2. Childhood obesity is a severe issue and needs the full commitment of government to resolve it. I was pleased to see the level of ambition in this plan but we must not lose focus. This was complemented by the health and social care secretary’s new prevention focus, which is really encouraging.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
2018 has been a year full of reactive incidents, which have needed me to deliver on unpredictable events at the same time as the government’s proactive and ambitious efforts to improve public and global health.
What are the main challenges facing your profession in the coming year?
The imminent NHS long term plan will be crucial for the NHS and prevention. The government has the opportunity to continue leading the world on antimicrobial resistance with its new strategy, and we must keep up the momentum on mental health.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Dr Rosalind Franklin had an illuminating impact on science. Her work helped lead to the discovery of the structure of DNA – a breakthrough which later earned her colleagues the Nobel prize. But her vital contribution was overlooked for too many years. I think she still deserves recognition for her amazing achievements.