Thames Valley Public Health England Centre to tackle obesity and smoking

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The head of a new public health body covering the Thames Valley region has pledged that it will be working to help people live longer, healthier lives.

Dr James Mapstone, the interim director of Thames Valley Public Health England (PHE) Centre, said the body is looking to bring about fundamental improvements in health and wellbeing.

Public Health England is a national body, divided into four regions - North, Midlands and East, London and South – and with 15 centres across the country, including Thames Valley.

It came into being on April 1, and takes over from a host of other bodies, namely the Health Protection Agency, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, the nine Public Health Observatories, the UK National Screening Committee and NHS cancer and non-cancer screening programmes, the Cancer Registries, Quality Assurance Reference Centres, public health functions from Strategic Health Authorities, Specialised Commissioners and parts of the Department of Health, including Public Health Marketing.

Its formation came at the same time as the Government moved local directors of public health and their teams from NHS Primary Care Trusts, also abolished, into local authorities.

The Thames Valley PHE will be responsible for making sure all the organisation’s services and expertise are focused on local needs.

It will have a director and team of specialist staff and will work with local government, the new Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England to tailor services to the region.

Dr Mapstone said: “For the first time in 40 years local authorities will have a legal responsibility for improving the health of their communities.

“Local government is the natural leader for this task – they will be able to place health and wellbeing in the wider context of the economy, housing, leisure, education, crime and community resilience, and have the skills, knowledge and passion to provide public health services designed for the needs of their population.

“PHE’s role will be to encourage and inspire. We will provide the professional advice, knowledge and evidence, to support local government and the NHS and to help people to make healthier choices.”

He said the body’s main thrust will be to tackle issues such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol.

“Poor mental health, substance abuse and musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, are among the main drivers for disability,” he added.

“The reality is that nearly all of these conditions are either preventable or can have less of an impact when diagnosed early. PHE has the opportunity to make a substantial difference to people’s lives.”