We are now just days from the 2018 City Health conference, where those attending will be the guests of the Alliance for Public Health (Ukraine), AFEW International (Netherlands), and the city of Odesa in association with Knowledge Action Change. Seven years ago, I had the pleasure to host the first of these events. It is a testament to the growing interest in how we make our cities better, heathier places to live- as well as the hard work of the organisers- that City Health has not only continued as an annual opportunity to hear and debate from a wide range of experts and commentators, but is now also a year round network where research, news and views are shared on a weekly basis. It’s been a pleasure to contribute to this process. For me, it’s been an enjoyable opportunity to reflect on a wide range of topics and share my thoughts with you. Many thanks to those who have responded, I apologise for having been London and substance misuse centric, but the last six months have helped broaden my knowledge beyond those confines!
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.