On 12 September RSPH held its annual conference and awards ceremony at RIBA, London, kindly sponsored again this year by Elsevier.

Dr Fiona Sim, Chair of RSPH, opened the conference by welcoming all present, extending a particular welcome to guests who had travelled from afar including India, Nigeria and New Zealand

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, was then welcomed to the stage as the first guest speaker of the afternoon

Duncan led us through some of the key priorities of Public Health England, setting the scene by putting some of the current challenges faced by healthcare into context. 50 years ago children were dying from the consequences of diseases, whereas now, 50 years on, we are burdened by dealing with the consequences of living.

Drawing reference to Sir Michael Marmot and the importance of early-life interventions, Duncan made it clear that we can’t address health gaps just by carrying on working the way we have been, emphasising the need for change.

The current times of restructuring offer a great impetus for this change, with new systems in place recognising that good health is not just healthcare, no longer just the absence of disease. At a time when health inequalities are wider than ever, newly formed clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards have high responsibilities and duty in reducing these inequalities.

Duncan concluded by giving us insight into the three main activities and responsibilities Public Health England will be undertaking in the coming year. Namely: to oversee and facilitate work undertaken by the aforementioned groups in reducing inequalities in communities; to publish everything, including all statistics and research to develop and strengthen the public health knowledge bank; and to influence national government policy, acting as the voice for the health needs of the public. He imparted a message that was later reiterated by all key speakers: the importance of focussing change and intervention on local level.