19/09/2012 Leave a comment
Today I was asked to speak at the Public Health England Vision Event at the University Arms hotel to a packed ballroom of Public Health Professionals and Local Government Officers from across the Region. There was a fare few Councillors and fellow Cabinet members there as well which I thought was every encouraging given the scale of the agenda before us on Public Health.
I was billed on the opening session and platform with Dr. Anne McConville, Acting Regional Director of Public Health East of England who chaired the event and who introduced the opening session, next up was Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive Public Health England, who spoke of his and Public Health’s challenges over the coming year as he builds his team about him. For the professionalos in the room he was clearly the star attraction for the day as he is the key person in articulating the degree to which Local Directors of Public Health will or will not get flexibility in their approaches and priorities.
Next up was me and following Duncan is not an easy slot but I hope I engaged then as I spoke to a PowerPoint presentation about the progress of Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, our Health and Wellbeing Strategy key priorities and a little about working with Councillors. I opened with a line about them all being frightened of councillors and how we might interfere and about our only qualification was getting elected! Albeit what they might find is those that achieve cabinet positions, maybe know how to work with professionals and could even be useful in how to get those difficult messages out there about smoking less, drinking less, eating 5 a day and taking more exercise or is that just what my doctor says to me!
Next up was Graham Farrant Chief Executive of Thurrock Council who spoke about the challenges of his area. Then all 3 of us took part in a 20 minute open Q&A session and what struck me was a question/statement from Professor Christine Hill from the Cambridge Institute of Public Health who made a plea for decisions to be made based on evidence and I spoke of that is soemthing to be thought about as Councillors can fall intot he trap of hearing something from three people in the street and then actign on it, a habit I and I suspect others must change!
After lunch John Wilderspin, National Director for the Health and Well Being Board Implementation spoke and fortunely his national picture seemed to accord with our Suffolk one more or less but what is very interesting is how they are beign allowed the space to develop organically something I have discuss a few times with John as we have met each other at a few different conferences and workshops on this subject; I have even suggested that the freedom is unusual for the Department of Health! but someone once said with Freedom comes great responsibility, and we have to rise to the challenge and get this right.
The rest of the day was jam packed full of examples of projects being undertaken and discuss on the issues as Public Health integrates into Local Government and I think I and my team of senior officers that attended came away with a far better sense of the work going on across the Eastern Region and that the point of spending time at a conference is to then take that information back and discuss the direction in light of the learning and that is precisely what we will be doing over the coming weeks.