A once in a generation opportunity
Cllr David Stockdale, deputy cabinet member for public health, culture, leisure and libraries
On 1st April the city council took on official responsibility from the NHS for Public Health in Newcastle.
In its traditional definition, public health means a focus on action that will help to create a society where everyone has positive wellbeing and good health.
It includes a range of areas, like helping to improve diet and nutrition, tackling the misuse of drugs and alcohol, providing tools to help people quit smoking and much more.
But we believe public health goes much deeper than that – it is not just about tackling and preventing illness – it’s about improving and saving lives across our city and getting to the root causes of ill health.
Evidence shows the city’s overall health will improve when we tackle the underlying causes of illness and unhappiness, everything from poor housing to low income, high stress jobs.
Our challenge in tacking health inequalities in Newcastle is to improve the conditions in which people are born, grow up, live their lives and grow old.
Achieving this isn’t just about service provision, integration or clinical pathways and it’s not about getting hung up on the definition of public health.
It is about building on partnerships that focus on the broad social, environmental and economic causes of health inequalities.
We must also work to ensure that everything we and our partners do contributes to the overarching goal of health equality and improving health in Newcastle.
We will lead the way by making sure wellbeing and health is embedded in our four core priorities; supporting a working city, decent neighbourhoods, tackling inequalities and creating a more fit for purpose council.
And as a council we are in a uniquely powerful position to tackle our city’s shocking health inequalities. We see public health as a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity.
And we have already started to make a difference. We have shown our determination to tackle in-work poverty by introducing a Living Wage for our staff and our Warm Up North coalition is taking on fuel poverty and the stress of high energy bills.
It is not ‘top down’ either. We want communities themselves to tell us what makes them healthier and happier and we will provide small grants from our public health budget to help them achieve this.
We are still in the early stages of planning our grants process, but we want to make money available to fund that walking club or that allotment group that can really make a difference to people’s health and wellbeing.
This is an example of how we are focusing on a social, grassroots approach to public health.
It’s a massive challenge, but I’m convinced we have the passion and the expertise to change and save lives.