District Councils Network : District Action on Public Health

Photo from the DCN
Photo from the DCN

From the 1st April this year, ‘public health’ will return to local government, as it once was in years gone, and to some extent at least in Victorian time the very reason for local government to exist in the first place, with those early works to stop the spread of diseases such as cholera by the development of provisions for providing clean drinking water, sewers and refuse collection.

Whilst in area’s like ours the ‘responsibilities’ for public health will reside with the county council, but many of the issues that arise from tackling public health problems cannot be resolved without the involvement of district and borough council’s who provide such services as parks, leisure and housing.

On Monday I attended an event organised by the District Council’s Network to which sought to both highlight how district councils contribute towards the new health & wellbeing agenda in local government, along with providing a number of practical examples of how the new arrangements that are been put in place will work in practice and how much district councils along with other bodies can work together to tackle these issues.

The event also saw the launch of a new guide for council’s and other bodies to use, which had been produced in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH)Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and is called District Action on Public Health (and can be downloaded by clicking here

There was a number of very good speakers at the event, most notably Duncan Selbie the chief executive of Public Health England the government body which from April 2013 will oversee the various stands of public health who despite suffering a little from ill health gave a good overview of how his organisation will be working on the various aspects of public health, two keys points from his comments in my mind were around the view that he sees little if any additional money coming into this area of works and the future been better / smarter more co-ordinated use of available funds, along with the view that we have an obsession at times with hospital based medicine when 80% of health issues are caused / dealt with via other means many of which are within the control of local council’s by means of how they work on housing, anti social behaviour, parks and leisure etc.

An earlier speaker from the association of directors of public health flagged the possible need for some sort of lexicon / ‘bable fish’ of the various terms used between the different public bodies and in particular for staff moving from the NHS to local councils to ensure that everyone understand and is speaking in the same terms to get the right achievements.

Pre-lunch saw a panel session that featured representatives from the professional bodies for environmental health (CIEH), housing (CIH) and planning (RITPI) on how they can work with us and their members to get best effect from the changes with two key points coming from Domini Gunn, the Director of Health & Wellbeing at the Chartered Institute of Housing, who highlighted the need for ‘myth busting’ around how housing works in the UK with a statistic of 82% of new all new housing benefit claimants been working people, along with the more concerning (at least in terms of looking at how older people’s care will work) with the stat that 1 in 3 babies born this year will live without any further health advances to over 100.

Locally the change could provide further challenges with the bulk of public health work at current in the Glossopdale area been organised and run under the auspices of the Tameside and Glossop PCT, whereas in the future it will be organised on a county basis which may mean services around a number of areas such as quite smoking help etc won’t be provided in the same way, and the challenge for both us and to county will be to make the new system work in the best way for local residents across our area, and the guide District Action on Public Health can only help that process.