Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH

Following chairing the public health strand at the Primary Care and Public Health conference, ​Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, picks out some of her highlights of the day.

The recent Bank Holiday Friday found me at a crowded Euston Station to catch the late afternoon train to Cumbria to visit family. I weaved through the hordes to find my seat and was pleased to discover that the neighbouring seat appeared to be free (always good to spread out) and was just settling in when the guard’s announcement stopped me in my tracks.

There was the usual ‘no smoking’ on the train set piece and then he added that e-cigarettes were also banned. It shows just how pervasive vaping has become and in the public health field the debate continues apace. Public Health England produced two interesting reports this week which are definitely worth a read.

Last week I attended my first Primary Care and Public Health conference at the NEC in Birmingham. It was a veritable treat for those of us keen to hear more about the latest thinking and innovations. Fortunately for me I was chairing the second day of the Public Health strand and so had the perfect reason to be there all day to hear the varied presentations. It was a reminder of the range of issues that impinge on the public’s health.

The Kings Fund recently produced ‘Improving the public’s health: a resource for local authorities’ by authors David Buck and Sarah Gregory. This excellent document outlines nine key areas that can improve public health and reduce inequalities and unsurprisingly they highlight ‘the best start in life’ (0-4 years) as having a major impact on the life chances of children.

At the conference, we were privileged to hear the charismatic CEO of Best Beginnings, Alison Baum talk not only about her breast feeding programmes for teen mothers but also to see a preview of her new App for young mothers and mothers-to-be. There was an intake of breathe from the large audience when she showed the range of avatars that the girls can create to be their ‘buddy’ and it has been developed with the users and ease of access in mind.

This is such an innovative approach to educating and supporting those young mothers who are the most vulnerable. A group from the NSPCC were heard to say that the App was ‘perfect for our girls’. Do go to the Best Beginnings website to see their great work and look out for the App launch this summer.

Another focus of the day was developing mental wellbeing and it was fascinating to hear Tony Coggins from the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, which is at the forefront of developing innovative services. A century of helping people with serious mental health problems has convinced them that promoting better mental wellbeing is best for the individual and society.

They have built up a wealth of knowledge and free tool kits so that their evidence based approach is available and adaptable for other regions. RSPH has a very productive partnership with SLAM as we have worked with them on creating the DiY Happiness Game for schools, so we can attest to the value of their work for improving the public’s health. 

This was a rich and rewarding day and I think it deserves two part two will be along soon.