Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH

A Q&A for the Health and Care Innovation Expo with ​Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, covers the aims of RSPH and the challenges presented by health inequalities.

What are the overarching objectives of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH)?
RSPH is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the population. Our scope encompasses the whole spectrum of health improvement and protection, and we view behaviour change as central to tackling these issues. Therefore, we place a particular emphasis on equipping the public health workforce at a community level so that they are able to provide the support necessary for individuals to make healthy choices.

Could you discuss some of the public health strategies that you currently have in place?
RSPH works closely with its partners – including government bodies such as Public Health England – to ensure that national policy and the outcomes framework are informed by practice which, where possible, is measurable and evidence-based. We are particularly proud of the role RSPH has played in working with the Department of Health to create over 35,000 ‘Health Champions’ who have the knowledge to provide advice and direct others towards places they can get health information and support in their local area.

We also encourage debate and discussion about the big public health issues of today and the future through our conferences, journals and engagement projects; and we aim to celebrate good practice and initiatives through various award schemes.

What value do partnerships with multinational companies, government departments and other non-profit organisations hold?
Partnerships are vital to our work; they enable us to bring together organisations with a shared goal to pool resources, specific expertise and knowledge, ultimately providing a stronger voice. The opportunities for idea exchange, initiating approaches to innovation and developing knowledge are huge.

Could you outline the key components of your presentation and elucidate the current landscape of public health in the UK?
Global trends point to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases and it is being shown time and time again that we cannot afford to maintain our current system of healthcare with its emphasis on treating illness instead of supporting wellness. It seems evident that we need to take responsibility for our own health, however this presupposes individual knowledge and motivation.

Smoking is at its lowest level in 80 years; a result of legislation, research and advocacy over the last 50 years that provided individuals with a situation in which they could make informed choices about their health. However, this approach is not enough on its own and does not work for everyone.

Huge health inequities exist that we need to take into account, we should act on the social determinants of health and ensure that there is equality of opportunity for the whole population. There is also increasing evidence that patients who understand and are involved with managing their own conditions have better health outcomes, if you increase self-care, your satisfaction rises and costs fall, but the culture of healthcare provision needs to change to one in which doctors partner with patients and encourage people to take responsibility for their condition.