Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, explains why 2017 will be a positive year for public health.

I am sitting at my desk on what is apparently the most gloomy day of the entire year, 16 January (the third Monday in January when our credit card bills, the weather and doomed new year resolutions all contribute to feeling miserable), contemplating reasons to be cheerful. Despite the unpredictable national and international politics and febrile state of the nation’s health and social care system, do we have reasons to be optimistic about the future of the public’s health? 

Some of you may remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads' song ‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ which sought out the good aspects of life and reminded us to be positive. So in that spirit, here are my reasons to be cheerful about the future of the public’s health, part 1. 

We are seeing some effective and innovative public health interventions in communities across the country despite the disinvestment in funding for public health and the worrying cutting of services. There are creative individuals, organisations and local authorities around the UK with good ideas and the will to make them happen. We will be highlighting many of these in this year’s Health and Wellbeing Awards.

The wider workforce for the public’s health, those individuals who have the ‘ability or opportunity to improve or protect’ someone’s health are beginning to mobilise and, from fire fighters, housing officers, leisure services, allied health professionals and pharmacy, there are now many more enthusiastic and motivated people supporting the prevention agenda.

There is also an appetite from many new professions, from the fitness industry to opticians, to play a part. RSPH has developed a new qualification (Level 2 Award in Improving the Public’s Health) to ensure that those who want to develop both their skills and career can do so. We continue to promote the transformational role of wider public health workforce at both national and local level during 2017.

With the NHS’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), the Vanguards, the focus on regionalism/localism and working across health and care systems, 2017 will see a greater and much needed focus on community based support, prevention and tackling the social determinants of health. Through our campaigning, education services and work in communities we will do our best to ensure this remains a priority.

The implementation of the sugar tax and the reformulation of high sugar products could mean at least a halt to the increase in obesity, while standardized packaging on cigarettes with their lurid pictures will continue the downward slide of tobacco sales. 

The evidence around climate change and environmental health issues are finally coming to the top of the agenda and the ‘deniers’ are becoming marginalized. Disseminating the latest evidence through our journals, conferences and stimulating debate through our webinars and members’ forums will continue to be a major activity for RSPH. 

In this first month of 2017, I want to say a big thank you to all our members and supporters for their commitment to our mission, their advice, guidance and expertise. We really couldn’t do our work without you.

Of course, my main reason to be cheerful on this most miserable of days is taking a walk around the office and talking to the fabulous RSPH staff whose commitment and hard work it would be hard to match and who keep me positive throughout the year. It may be raining outside but in here it’s positively sunny!

Happy New Year!