Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 8 February 2019

Dear everyone

The flu season is well underway and is mainly the H1N1pdm09 strain circulating at the moment which is covered by this season’s vaccine. While coverage in the over 65s is slightly down, uptake rates for children have increased and by adding an extra school year an additional 350,000 children have been vaccinated. Not only does this protect the children being vaccinated but we know it provides additional protection for those around them, including those more vulnerable to flu such as the elderly.  Our interim assessment of vaccine effectiveness will be published in late February.

Almost everyone of all ages owns a smart phone, tablet or computer and in the main this brings many benefits and is part of modern life. This week the UK’s Chief Medical Officers have published a map of evidence on the impact of screen-based activity on children and young people. The report concludes that the scientific evidence is insufficient to support evidence-based guidelines on screen time, but that there are common sense actions that parents and schools can take to support child health and development. Technology companies and government have also been called upon to take action to prevent children coming to harm while online.

Also in the news this week are the latest statistics on alcohol consumption. This is a mixed picture. Fewer young people are drinking but older people are drinking more. Alcohol-related admissions to hospital are increasing, as is liver disease, the only long term condition going in the wrong direction. This is why the NHS Long Term Plan has committed to support those hospitals with the highest rate of alcohol-related admissions to fully establish Alcohol Care Teams. The evidence is clear that these work, helping patients understand and reduce their risk.

Next week PHE will be hosting the annual cardiovascular disease conference in Manchester, with a focus on scaling up CVD prevention. This will coincide with the publication of the next edition of Health Matters focusing on the detection and treatment of atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol – the major causes of heart attacks and strokes. Do look out for more about the conference and sign up to the Health Matters launch teleconference to hear more.

PHE teams respond to public health emergencies both at home and abroad. Our Disease Detectives series showcases our cutting-edge science and research and the latest edition looks at the public health challenges posed by the Rohingya migrant crisis in Bangladesh. Research nurse Emilio Hornsey has undertaken three deployments to Cox’s Bazaar working on an outbreak of diphtheria and developing proposals for managing healthcare waste and reflects on his experiences.

And finally, Local Government Delivers is a new report from the Local Government Association that brings to life the impact of their work over the past six years since councils assumed responsibility for the public’s health. Of the 112 public health performance indicators, 80% have either remained stable or improved, which is no mean feat given their challenging financial situation and increasing demand. This is well worth a read.

With best wishes,

Duncan

Friday messages from 2012-2018 are available on GOV.UK

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