Patrick Keady

All change please !


This post was first published in the March 2011 issue of Perspectives in Public Health.  This article is downloadable here



The UK Government published its White Paper on Public Health on 30th November 2010.  We welcome the priority that it gives to health promotion, health protection and prevention.  While many will ask if it is possible to dramatically increase public health capacity in these times of economic austerity?


Ion (page 69) gives one example where the answer is definitely ‘yes’. He describes how health prevention thinking is being embedded in the everyday work of health and social care employees, creating an ‘extended sales force’ for healthier living.


O’Brien et al.’s paper (p. 71) shines a light on people that are isolated from their families, community and wider society. active engagement is helping them reintegrate into society, enabling them to feel part of a small social network, providing meaningful activity, and enhancing feelings of responsibility.


The White Paper emphasises a ‘life course’ approach, focusing on the specific health challenges at each age as we move from cradle to grave.  Morgan (p. 64) argues that everyone aged 50 and above, should be encouraged to take aspirin.  The balance of risk is shifting towards taking, rather than not avoiding, an aspirin a day.  While some suffer internal bleeding from long-term or high doses, the humble aspirin is said to cut the risk of several cancers by as much as half, as well as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, dementia and more.


It can be argued that England’s Primary are Trusts (PCTs) are well placed to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.  Nichols et al. (page 82) recommend that if they are to be effective, then there is room for improvement in strengthening the relationships between public health specialists and other stakeholders.


McCluskey et al.’s paper (page 89) reviews the evidence to increasing response rates to lifestyle surveys. reported response rates to postal questionnaires are decreasing rapidly. Electronic surveys are cheaper, although the empirical evidence on effectiveness is inconclusive.


Mohajer (page 59) describes the three winners of the RSPH’s 2010 Health Promotion and Community Well-Being organization and Partnership award: Bournemouth Health live, NHS Bedfordshire and NHS North East Essex.  Congratulations to them for improving population and community well-being and health, through strategic, coherent and innovative measures.


Looking for information about health problems on Google and other search engines is a growing phenomenon and Hodge (page 62) has named it ‘Healthipedia’.  Of course this needs to be supplemented so that people can be more health-literate.  And I am sure that you will agree that if we are really serious about improving health, then we must develop appropriate curriculum
opportunities for promoting health literacy in all schools.


The UK Government’s White Paper recommends the transfer of local public health services from PCTs to local government.  This makes sense. It places public health closer to the services that influence some of the most important determinants of health.


Inevitably, colleagues working in PCTs will be dusting off their CVs and preparing for interviews.  Some will relish the new opportunities, new experiences and new perspectives that will come from being employed in local government.  Others may be less sure, but fear not because Cronin and Endersby’s article (p. 66) is timely and will be particularly helpful to them.



This post was first published in the March 2011 issue of Perspectives in Public Health.  The article it is downloadable here


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