Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care Jo Churchill MP has written to Michael Brodie, chief executive of Public Health England (PHE), to set out the strategic remit and priorities for PHE until the end of 2021. A key priority will be to work with the Department of Health and Social Care to define and set the direction of the Office for Health Promotion, which is expected to formally begin work later this year.
The Parliamentary under secretary of state for for Innovation, Lord Bethell, has separately written to Dr Jenny Harries, the new chief executive of the newly created UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to set out priorities for its initial period of operation from May 2021 to March 2022.
In response to these priorities, Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: “COVID-19 hit harder in the UK because of poor levels of general health before the pandemic, especially in deprived areas. So, it’s right that Public Health England, and the new Office for Health Promotion and UK Health Security Agency, focus on reducing health inequalities as part of ‘levelling up’.
“But the government must recognise that health inequality is not simply a ‘health-related matter’. There is so much evidence to show this is the case, from Marmot’s Build Back Fairer to the recent Health Foundation report which showed adults in England’s poorest areas were almost 4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in wealthiest areas. The priorities of PHE, OHP and UKHSA must be underpinned and informed by a cross-government strategy led by the prime minister to address health inequalities, with a strategic review of housing, jobs, education and more, to give people the best chance possible to live longer, healthier lives.
“Public health funding is another part of the puzzle. Local authorities need a proper funding settlement so they can effectively prevent poor health developing in the first place, otherwise our health and care organisations will forever be trying to pick up the pieces.”