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Up and running: Public Health England
The revised structure of the NHS in place from April 2013 brought in a new body, Public Health England, to lead on improving the health of the general public.
insideHealth magazine issue 9, August 2013
Public Health England (PHE) is responsible for advising government and supporting local authorities and the NHS on making the public healthier. They are tasked with helping people to live longer and healthier lives by reducing avoidable deaths and ill health associated with lifestyle choices such as smoking, poor diet, high alcohol consumption and lack of exercise.
Public Health England: Fact file
PHE was established on 1 April 2013, as part of the NHS reforms resulting from the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It brings together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations, including the former Health Protection Agency, into a single public health service.
PHE works with national and local government, industry, and the NHS to protect and improve the nation's health and support healthier choices. PHE is addressing inequalities by focusing on removing barriers to good health.
PHE employs 5,500 staff, mostly scientists, researchers and public health professional, and operates from 15 local centres and four regional centres.
Public Health England hits the headlines
Public health issues are often controversial, especially in terms of how the messages are put across to the gerneral public. In a short space of time, PHE has launched several initiatives that have hit the headlines, including:
‘North and South health divide: Chilling study reveals premature death is "postcode lottery"'
‘The health gap: New mortality rates show how the north loses out to the south'
In June, PHE launched a website that shows where in the country the most avoidable deaths happen. Mortality rates across the country have been mapped so that local people and councils can see where they rank in terms of premature deaths from cancer, lung disease, liver disease, and heart disease and stroke.
The ‘Longer Lives' website (http://longerlives.phe.org.uk) reveals a huge difference in mortality rates in the richer and poorer parts of the country, and a wide north-south divide.
PHE claim the website will be a "powerful enabler for change, helping communities work together to live longer, healthier lives". However, local authorities have criticised the league tables, saying it ‘oversimplifies' complex health problems.
‘Public Health England to launch largest cancer database'
‘UK takes major step towards personalised medicine'
PHE has announced that it is to create a national registry to store all available data on the 350,000 cancers identified in the country each year. It will be the world's largest single database of cancer patients.
The data will be drawn from patients at every acute NHS trust, as well 11 million historical records going back 30 years. It will include information on treatment and outcomes as well as clinical data. It will be linked with data from separate smaller registries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The aim of the database is to help develop personalised cancer medicine by enabling more precise diagnosis, prognosis and treatment options based on the exact genetic features of each tumour type. It will also facilitate research to allow new and better understanding of different types of cancer and the development of new treatments.