By Jennifer Davies, Public Health Practitioner.
Many of you may have understood that ‘Healthy Telford’ is the name we have given to Public Health on social media (who wants to follow ‘Telford and Wrekin Council’s Public Health Team’? Yawn…) But if you have you ever wondered what Public Health actually is, you aren’t alone! Despite being part of the Council’s responsibilities since 2013 there are many people who still don’t really understand what that means. Allow us to clear it up for you.
It is the same every time I meet someone new.
New person: “What is it that you do?”
Me: “I work in public health. For a local authority.”
Me: “ITS ACTUALLY REALLY FASCINATING AND I LOVE IT OK”
That last line isn’t usually said out loud, it’s more of an inner monologue. But what is true is how many people seem to have no idea what public health is.
Public Health, simply put, is helping people to stay healthy and protecting them from threats to their health.
Sometimes public health activities involve helping individual people, but mainly we deal with wider factors that have an impact on the health of lots of people at once.
Our team in Telford includes a Consultant in Public Health, a Public Health Manager, a nurse, several Commissioners (with backgrounds ranging from sports to procurement through to teaching), Public Health Practitioners, Active Communities Officers, Creative Development Officers, and of course our administrative support. So you can see that there are a lot of roles, lots of different backgrounds and interests, all bringing different views and approaches and expertise to our projects.
At a very basic level, our job is to care about Telford residents. We might also look at Telford residents of a certain age, Telford residents who live in particular areas, residents who have just had babies or residents of particular backgrounds and ethnicities.
This is because health risks often have patterns that make them more likely to affect groups of people with certain heritages or life stages.
A very low-level public health intervention is providing health information to these groups. An example is the Change4Life campaign that many people are familiar with. We share their campaign messages with Telford residents using social media, posters, resource packs etc. This is about helping get healthy lifestyles information out to families with young children by providing them with information and tips that they can choose whether to follow or not.
A more intensive intervention might be our Healthy Lifestyles team. The Healthy Lifestyles team offer free, one-to-one information, advice and (if you want it) ongoing support to help any adult living in Telford to make a change to their lifestyles. You certainly aren’t forced to go to them but if you went there you would get a lot more help from them than just a campaign message or leaflet.
We work in lots of different ways to help motivate and enable residents to take charge of their health and make positive lifestyle changes.
We commission services like Sexual Health services, Health Visitors, Stop Smoking Services, Public Health Midwives and Drug and Alcohol Treatment services.
Often we don’t commission services but we might set up projects like Telford & Wrekin Health Champions or Work Well in Telford. These aren’t services but new ideas and ways of working to reach the right people, with the right messages, at the right time that they want and need them.
We offer training in health topics, usually for free, and to anyone in Telford that might benefit.
Other aspects of our role includes linking in with partners like the NHS, schools, social care teams, police and fire service. We have done some great joint working to help reach really vulnerable at-risk people in our communities to help them stay safe and well. We like to make friends, and its very inspiring to meet so many motivated and passionate people across the borough who are working really hard to protect and/or improve peoples lives here.
We aim to influence policies and decision-making so that health is embedded in lots of different work across the Council, NHS and third sector. Since the Marmot Review in the 1990’s we have understood how health impacts upon a persons environment, housing, employment, education – and vice versa. So we aim to have good health promoted in lots of different but relevant contexts.
It’s varied. It’s a science as much as an art and a business, all at the same time and we wouldn’t change a thing.