Winter always brings about additional pressure on the NHS and public services and this makes it even more important that people take steps to protect their health and stay well. The most obvious measure to take is to get vaccinated and yesterday we launched our Stay Well This Winter programme, which is all about people staying well and not needing to visit their GP or hospitals because of common winter illnesses. England is in the vanguard in the world in offering the flu vaccine to young children as well as people aged over 65 and those in clinical risk groups, and this year children aged between 2 and 8 will be offered the vaccine. We encourage everyone who is eligible for the vaccine to get it, as doing so protects not only yourself, but those around you.
On Tuesday, World Mental Health Day, a new programme was announced by the Department of Health and PHE which will see one million people trained in basic mental health “first aid” skills. The programme aims to improve people’s ability to look after their own mental health and also know how to respond to and support people who are experiencing a mental health problem. These are invaluable skills and considering most people will experience poor mental health or provide care for a loved one who is struggling at some point, is something we should all want to learn and be more confident in. PHE is working with key partners and will oversee and deliver the programme from autumn 2018. You can learn more here.
Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are the leading cause of poor health for both men and women. These conditions are also a huge problem for people of working age, accounting for 30.8 million lost work days in 2016. The evidence to support cost-effective interventions is certainly strong, and to support NHS commissioners in acting on this we have created a new return on investment tool which tailors results to local areas. Commissioned from York Health Economics Consortium, the ROI tool promotes interventions which are aimed at those of working age, and covers back and knee pain in particular as well as MSK conditions more generally. We have also published a report which outlines the methodology and results, please do have a look.
Faith plays a critical part for many in keeping well and in helping others. The Catholics for AIDS Prevention and Support charity has taken a lead on AIDS prevention and they have created a video series called Positive Faith. This programme, funded by PHE’s HIV Innovation Fund and sponsored by Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, is a fabulous, pragmatic expression of faith being about life and in this case people living with HIV. The Catholic Church has also shown leadership on mental health prevention and has made this a priority for each of their dioceses. They have, amongst many other commitments, appointed a lead Bishop for mental health, funded a programme of grants to Catholic parishes and agencies to focus on mental health and also mental health training for Catholics training for Ministry. We have much to thank Jim for in leading on this and much else for Hertfordshire and nationally. He is a public health rock star.
And finally, on Tuesday I contributed to a summit on policing and public health where we discussed our shared aim of intervening early to address the common factors that bring people into contact with the police and criminal justice system and ultimately poor outcomes throughout life. For example, work with young offenders in Northamptonshire found that bereavement is the main driver in 40% of youth offending service court cases and by working together something as obvious as this could have been handled differently. There are many other examples like this. By developing this relationship we will improve public safety, prevent offending and re-offending, reduce crime and help to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals and the wider community. PHE alongside local government, NHS England, voluntary agencies and police partners will finalise and agree a consensus statement, and develop a plan to support its implementation, so watch this space.
With best wishes,
Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK