The main summer holiday season is coming to an end in London. Traditionally, August is a quiet time where we catch up on long overdue administrative tasks and discuss potential collaborations for the coming months. However, with City Health in Odesa less than two weeks away, I find myself in a reflective mood. The last few months have seen a range of health stories in the media. Some got barely five minutes of interest, others generated coverage on television, and debate online. What, I have been considering, are the actual impacts on our populations of this media interest? People are exhorted to stop smoking, eat healthier, avoid sugar, drink less (if any) alcohol, be more active, avoid too much sun, and practice safe sex. No doubt there were also a few other topics that slipped passed me. How effective is this kind of advice?
Many years ago, I began work at the Department of Education. At around the same time the government of the day introduced school league tables. They were soon joined by rankings of colleges and universities as well as comparisons of different age groups. There was always great political interest in these and no little controversy. The intention was to allow comparison, inform the potential customer, and to encourage competition. They were deeply unpopular with most education professionals. In many ways they failed to highlight those institutions or individuals making the most impressive contributions, and encouraged all kinds of gamesmanship. These tables are still produced on an annual basis, attract considerable media interest, where all the associated pros and cons are revisited and debated.
Hello again to the City Health community after my few weeks away. I hope some of you have also had the opportunity to enjoy a holiday. My batteries are recharged, and I am looking forward to the City Health conference in a month’s time. If you haven’t yet, have a look at the programme, I am sure you will find topics of interest. There really isn’t another event like City Health in terms of opportunities to learn from other cities and across professional disciplines. This all helps to provide a fertile environment to reflect upon individual areas of interest and activity.
Around the world, cities are increasingly concerned with not only protecting, but also improving the health of their citizens. This is driven by many factors, the link between a healthy population and economic success being one of the most politically compelling. Closely linked to this, health inequalities/inequities are recognised as barriers to cities achieving their potential. This concept has gained traction with a broad range of politicians and policy makers, even if the breadth of factors and levers to achieve these goals are perhaps less well understood. What is clear is that the delivery of a healthy city requires the involvement of agencies beyond the traditional, narrow, understanding of those which deliver medical services. We all regularly hear and chant the mantra of needing to end silo working and the virtue of adopting holistic approaches.