Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to public health in England. On Wednesday the Government published its Air Quality plan, and Local Authorities have been given a central role, with PHE tasked with providing close support.
NICE and PHE recently published joint guidance on outdoor air quality and health, and the Government has additionally asked PHE to review the evidence for effective interventions and provide practical recommendations, stratified by health and economic impact, for any actions not currently included in the Air Quality Plan. There is no doubt that there is much to be done and this plan is a strong step in the right direction.
Today is World Hepatitis Day, and we have published Hepatitis C in the UK, a report which shows there has been a further decline in UK deaths over the past two years. This is good news; however it also shows that 200,000 people in the UK are thought to be living with the virus, some of whom will not know they are infected.
Curative treatment provided by the NHS includes antiviral drugs, which can successfully clear the virus in the vast majority of cases and will save thousands of lives. The NHS is treating more people each year until such a time as we can defeat this damaging infection.
Our national sugar reduction programme is well underway, and the food industry is fully engaged and on the case. This matters because children in England are consuming up to three times the recommended amount of sugar each day and we see the effects of this on our children, with a third leaving primary school overweight or obese. This is why drinks such as milkshakes, smoothies and juices will be our next focus, and last week we began discussions with the drinks industry to tackle this.
Most people spend a huge chunk of their lives in work. This presents an opportunity for employers to help improve the health of their workforce, benefitting their business as well as their staff. This is especially important for small and medium enterprises which are the backbone of our nation’s workforce, and contrary to big business, do not have the infrastructure or same level of support to make the most of this. We have developed employer toolkits based on the best evidence aimed at businesses of all sizes, which offer employers practical advice and case studies on key health issues for their staff and business. These include toolkits on musculoskeletal and mental health, which make up almost 50% of sickness absence; please do take a look at these and share them.
The UK is profoundly fortunate to have a rich depth and breadth of science professionals here at PHE and on Monday I met with Professor Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, to discuss his new strategy for developing scientists and engineers in Government. Science in government has a huge impact, from life-saving work such as fighting infectious diseases to advising on major policy. With 30,000 scientists working across government, PHE is one of the largest employers with 2400 scientists working across the breadth of public health policy and practice.
As Sir Mark said, career development is not done for you, it is something you actively pursue for yourself and this relies on PHE ensuring the best possible opportunities are in place. I encourage you to watch this short video and read his introductory blog.
And finally, I will be on holiday with my family for the next two weeks and the next Friday message will be on Friday 18 August.
With best wishes,