Looking at things differently.

Public Health DiagramLast Wednesday evening I drove to Birmingham for what’s now my forth time working with the Leadership Centre for Local Government as it delivers its programme with Public Health England for Public Health professional working in Local Government entitled: ‘Public Health, Politics & People – Perspectives & Power in the System’. Facilitating the workshop sessions were Chris Lawrence-Pietroni who has co-designed the course and Liz Goold who I was working with for the first time. Also for the first time Cllr. Jonathan McShane from Hackney who is Cabinet member for Adult Care joined, myself and Cllr. Roz Gladden, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Care at Liverpool Council, whom I have worked with on each of the previous days we have delivered the workshop as a team of Councillors from different backgrounds and political Parties.

Whilst Chris and his team refine the programme a little each time and change it around a bit based on the positions and experience of the participants, doing something for the 4th time is quite unusual for Councillors. Usually a paper or policy percolates through the system and you work out how to present it and you do to once, occasionally twice, at say a Cabinet meeting and then Full Council but mostly it’s a one off speech/round of media interviews etc. Thus it presents an opportunity to refine what you say and reflect on the differences of each cohort.

In the few months the programme has been up and running whilst every group is different both in terms of where they are in the hierarchy of public health teams now a part of local government there has in that time been an interesting shift in the conversations and I suspect thinking as the place of Public Health in local Government is rapidly maturing. Equally as you become more skilled at the delivery of the programme you start to develop what you are trying to stress in the sessions and the differences and similarities of Councillors from across the political divide that you are trying to explore. For me one of the mantra’s I’ve tried to stress is that if you meet one politician you’ve met one politician – for we are all different. In some ways defined by our political party allegiances and in others most defiantly not.

The great thing about this work is that I personally get as much out of it as the participants for it really stretches your own thinking about the Council you belong to and not so much the Public Health teams, more the mind set of officers and how they view their roles and the careers they have chosen.

Food Choices

Last Thursday week I was in London to chair a conference at Local Government House called ‘Food for thought: joint approaches to safe food and healthy eating – organised by the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing team of which I am a Board member. During the course of the day, 120 delegates ranging of Environmental Food Safety officers to Directors and senior officers in Public Health and handful of Councillors debated the subject.
I kicked the day off by taking about the importance of grasping the new agenda as public health has returned to local government. I pondered that with the move, local government was now at the heart of how we go about the oversight of food, whilst Westminster sets the policy framework local government enforces that what the producers and retailers says is being purchased or served is correct. That the premises from which it is being provided is up to standards and how through the great marking system now in place across England residents can have confidence in the premise they are buying form or eating at. And with public health now in local government we have the final piece of the jigsaw and responsibility to encourage businesses and consumers to make better choices on food that effects their long term health and ultimately the cost to the national purse.
For me a day is success if I learn things and I really did improvement my knowledge on this important subject, plus I hope my experience in Chairing such events helped the day fizz along, aided by the excellent Paul Ogden of the LGA @ogden140. The various presentations can be viewed at    and are well worth a look.
Amongst many excellent presentations and initiatives being presented the thoughts of Professor Tim Lang @ProfTimLang, Professor of Food Policy – City University London, were really interesting about the direction of travel we are on and what we have to do to change our food habits and perceptions. He spoke about that on his journey home, part of which he cycles through London, brave man, as he approaches Clapham Junction, he has counted that, on the way to the train there are 37 food options to snack, graze or take home.

To many of us the choice and quality on offer is a revelation and progress compared to many years ago when the choice might have been a single curled at the edges ham sandwich and a stewed cup of coffee, but he saw these choices as a potential threat to our collective health as we collectively have too much opportunity to eat too much, particularly sugar and salt. Another one of his comments which really struck home was that today, by the time a child is 16 they have on average will have seen 130,000 adverts for fast food and sugary drinks etc., – quite staggering, and when you think about it that is probably set against but a handful of lessons and information about health eating.
I closed the conference by thanking the speakers and delegates for a really interesting day and the importance of the role of local government to shape our future eating habits and perhaps most importantly to try to counter the advertising bombarding younger people and help then and indeed the rest of us make more informed choices.

 

Suffolk Volunteering Legacy

A few days ago I noticed that the display cases in Endeavour House have changed as they do and the Olympic memorabilia has now gone on to other locations and I was minded to think about what is the lasting legacy of the Games, here in Suffolk.

For me there are two, firstly it about people enjoying better access to sport and the way in which with the move of Public Health into the County Council we intend to put sport and physical activity at the heart of the Public health agenda; to be fair I know that we are not alone in this objective, as it should always have been, but it’s hardly unique to Suffolk.

What is unique is Suffolk Volunteering which we have developed following the success of the volunteering programme at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games which has raised the profile of volunteering and generated an enormous amount of positive press and comment in the media. The challenge is to now build upon this raised profile and enthusiasm to make positive and lasting change to volunteering in the county.

In Suffolk, we have a changing landscape for voluntary sector infra-structure with the creation in April 2013 of Community Action Suffolk (CAS). The new organisation will be the result of a merging of SAVO, Suffolk ACRE, Young Suffolk and 7 other Infra-structure bodies, including most of the Volunteers Centre’s in the county which gives us a unique opportunity to roll out coordinated volunteering programmes across the whole of the county. In this the team with support from the County Council have been building upon, and guided by, issues raised at the Sports Volunteering Conference held in March 2012 and the Volunteering Legacy Summit in November 2012. In the background meetings have taken place, papers have been written, strategies agreed and funding is being sort. But frankly all that is the structural and the internal machinery what people are interested in is what that means for them.

Please go and have a look at http://www.suffolkvolunteeringlegacy.org.uk/ and get involved and be alongside so many of those who volunteered at the Olympics, who enjoyed it so much they are now a part of this unique Suffolk legacy.

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