Articles Viewpoint

Public Health England’s 7 Priorities for the Next 5 Years

If you have read my previous post on Sir Michael Marmot, you will know that I’m a big fan of Sir Michael’s research, especially Fair Society, Healthy Lives. I’m also always interested in any plans and proposals  that affect children in this country.

So, I was especially excited to see that Public Health England (PHE) has just produced a report that details their 7 priorities for the next 5 years. These are:

  1. tackling obesity particularly among children
  2. reducing smoking and stopping children starting
  3. reducing harmful drinking and alcohol-related hospital admissions
  4. ensuring every child has the best start in life
  5. reducing the risk of dementia, its incidence and prevalence in 65-75 year olds
  6. tackling the growth in antimicrobial resistance
  7. achieving a year-on-year decline in tuberculosis incidence

Obviously, I turned straight to section 4, to see how Public Health England plans to ensure that every child has the best start in life.  Which is where the link between Michael Marmot and the PHE report comes in.

I’m really, really pleased to be able to say that they have drawn extensively on the Marmot report, and subsequent updates, when formulating the plan.

The second thing that jumped out was the prominence of emotional resilience, which is very encouraging. The need for children to have good ‘bounce-back-ability’ has never been higher as the world changes at such an enormous rate. Emotional resilience is something that we can give children that we know will never go out of date.

On a more immediate note, PHE will be working on achieving a number of targets over the next 18 months, which includes:

  • promote the importance of high-quality universal services as a foundation for good health for all our children and as a platform for early intervention and targeted support
  • develop and strengthen the evidence, including working with the Early Intervention Foundation as a ‘What Works Centre for Early Intervention’
  • expand the Start4Life Information Service for Parents from 0-2 years to 0-5 years and sign up over 200,000 more parents
  • work with NICE on the implementation of the quality standards and pathways for emotional and social wellbeing in early years

It is encouraging to see the expansion of services such as Start4Life.

Similarly, it is essential that the Early Intervention Foundation and other such organisations continue to gather evidence to ensure that the correct services are provided in the right areas – and that notice is taken of the evidence.

The implementation of quality standards and pathways, if done correctly, will help practitioners support children in the essential foundations of emotional and social wellbeing. Hopefully this will not mean further paperwork, but utilising the knowledge that both practitioners and health professionals already have on their children.

My only, tiny, niggle is that school readiness has appeared – although this is school ready AFTER the age of 5, rather than after leaving an Early Years setting.

The positive aspect of this report, for Early Years, is that emotional wellbeing, social wellbeing and resilience are given such importance.

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  • Marie Oct 27,2014 at 11:14 am

    Thank you Kathy for circulating this and for giving us all a nudge to take a closer look. I really hope that ‘giving a child the best start in life’ will include supporting their families and parents/carers in the home environment. Parents/family members/carers themselves, it is well evidenced, are child’s first educators and it all happens at home (with community resources coming into play a bit later and depending on each child’s disposition and family circumstances). The ‘home -learning environment’ as we now think of it, is absolutely key as are the relationships within it and parents’ wishes to provide both the resources and time available to nurture young children and provide for their needs – love/housing/clothing/clean bedding/healthy food/books/music/outdoor play/learning life skills such as cooking/personal hygiene/conversation and so on. Our systems (and this is where Public Health England comes in) must first and foremost recognise that parents cannot provide for their children (or indeed for other family members as they grow older) in a system that unfortunately fails to recognise society’s need to support healthy sustainable family life through family friendly taxation, allowances, encouraging parents to spend time with the children, to afford decent housing with adequate facilities, access decent employment which is fairly paid and so on. Instead we have a system which is increasingly hostile to family life.
    This report appears to focus a lot on ‘early intervention’ but the gatekeepers of early intervention services, helpful though they are (as long as interpreted as ‘community support’ in equal partnership with parents ) must also demand macro economic solutions which are designed to support family life, rather than replace it. At the moment we are fast moving towards a culture which is making it impossible for ordinary people to sustain family life, hold a roof over their heads, pay their bills, have healthy food available, have time to take of one another. We need to be more demanding of what our systems (tax/housing/allowances/fiscal) could do to support parents in managing their own family lives and take loving care of their children, instead of taking it as a given that we now need children to spend most of their days cared for outside the home by professionally trained carers. We need a multi-disciplinary approach (particularly to tackle the family housing crisis) and more debate about valuing family life, family time and family care systems during the course of the family life cycle.

  • Jayne Oct 27,2014 at 10:54 am

    Will the government make money available to meet these priorities? I don’t think anyone with a vested interested in the health and well-being of young children could argue that they are right to prioritise the health of the youngest in society. As a new community interest company we struggle to access funding to promote physical activity through training carers and educators. Sport England’s priorities are competitive sport aimed at over 14’s. How do children develop the skills they need to enter that arena, when research tells us that children overall, have poor core strength and coordination crucial in developing agility along with maintaining a healthy weight.

  • Catriona Oct 27,2014 at 9:56 am

    This is hugely encouraging. Thanks for sharing Kathy.

  • Liz Tanner Oct 27,2014 at 9:43 am

    I just hope that parents will help drive the changes and not leave it all to the day-carers to implement… Regarding your comment on school readiness after 5 and not when the child leaves an EY setting: I am a reception teacher in a school and consider my class to be an EY setting – my remit is to get children ‘ready for school’ ie: ready for formal education in year 1, by getting them used to school life (routines and expectations, and a new environment) whilst still providing developmentally appropriate learning experiences and learning through play, just as the children did in their PVI/ other EY setting. I feel that when the children leave my class aged 5, they are ready to ‘go next door’ to the year 1 class and that they are socially, emotionally and developmentally ready for school.

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