Duncan Selbie described his visit to the city earlier this month as the most “motivating” of any he has made recently, as he discovered the steps partners in Wolverhampton are taking to improve the health of local residents.
As part of his fact-finding mission to Wolverhampton – one of a series of regular visits the PHE boss makes to authorities around England – he was introduced by Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing Councillor Sandra Samuels and Director of Public Health Ros Jervis to the work taking place to tackle Wolverhampton’s obesity crisis.
With more than two thirds of adults in the city either obese or overweight – and an increasing number of young people following suit – the council has brought together representatives from public and private sector organisations, education, health and social care providers and voluntary, community and faith groups to discuss ways to address the issue.
Mr Selbie was also told about the city’s efforts to tackle drug and alcohol misuse, help people give up smoking and cut rates of infant mortality.
In addition, he met Member Champions Councillor Paul Sweet and Councillor Stephen Simkins, who are completing personal weight loss challenges in support of the city’s fight against obesity, and spoke with leader of the council Roger Lawrence, Managing Director Keith Ireland and Strategic Director for People, Linda Sanders.
Mr Selbie said: “I have been to many places over the past two years but none more motivating than Wolverhampton. The council has a duty to improve the health of the people, and this is clearly being embraced in Wolverhampton.
“Politicians, clinicians and managers cannot solve everything on their own but they are the natural leaders for making things happen. That is exactly what is happening in Wolverhampton, where the local population experiences a number of health problems, none more compelling than obesity.
“Led by Ros Jervis, Wolverhampton’s Director of Public Health, everyone across the city is getting involved including the acute trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group.
“I was also impressed by the efforts of the council’s Member Champions, who have taken on a very public challenge to lose weight in support of the Call to Action.
“They have all been sharing their experiences with their communities through tweets and blogging. They are not just ‘warning and informing’, they are actually leading from the front and they are determined to turn things around.”
Mr Selbie, who was appointed chief executive of the PHE on 1 April 2013, also highlighted other local initiatives of “national note” including the recommissioning of sexual health and drug and alcohol services and the HeadStart pilot projects designed to help 10 to 14-year-olds to cope better with life and avoid future mental health problems. He also visited the Refugee and Migrant Centre, which provides help and support to 70 people a day, describing it as “a beacon for others to copy”.
Councillor Samuels said: “I am absolutely delighted with the feedback from Duncan Selbie’s visit to our city and pleased that we were able to share with him some of our ongoing initiatives to improve public health.
“The role of Public Health England is to support local government’s ambitions whether this is through data sharing, evidence, cost effectiveness or best practice.
“Our ultimate ambition is to foster a culture that focuses on how we create and sustain the health of Wolverhampton’s communities at all stages of their lives. With public health responsibilities having transferred to the council we are now closer to getting there.
“I’d like to thank the council’s Public Health team for their hard work and I am confident that by continuing to working with our partners and residents, we can bring about big improvements in the health of people in our city.”