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Becoming a public health council

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Delivering improved public health outcomes for residents is a top priority for Blackburn with Darwen BC.

We are working hard to ensure that public health is not just ‘another service’ but at the heart of everything we do across policy, service delivery and decision making in every directorate and portfolio.

Blackburn with Darwen is exploring what it means to be a public health council – not just a council with a public health service.

Many factors that affect residents’ health are determined by national policy, in areas such as welfare reform, food policy, tobacco control and alcohol pricing.

We therefore see national advocacy for health-promoting public policy (which supports the most vulnerable) as a growing part of our public health role.

To achieve this, following the transfer of responsibility for public health last April, the council established a two-year public health investment plan.

This plan looked at how the public health grant would be invested, and defined ways in which all council directorates would contribute to public health outcomes, and all relevant major decision making could be subject to health and equality impact assessment.

Every council directorate has been explicitly tasked with improving or contributing to at least five public health targets and has been allocated public health grant resources as part of a £1m Social Determinants of Health Fund. The council’s total public health grant is about £13m per year.

The £1m SDOHF is distributed to individual council departments, which in turn commit to delivering particular health outcomes.

These range from addressing child poverty and increasing use of parks and open spaces, to providing fall prevention services and enforcing underage drinking laws.

All directorates have a written agreement with the executive member for health and adult social care to deliver defined outcomes for this allocation and routinely report against these outcomes as part of their quarterly monitoring.

Every directorate also has a senior public health specialist or consultant assigned to work closely with them to develop their public health programme.

The targets were chosen based on where evidence was strongest, and priorities set within the council’s overall health and wellbeing strategy.

The council has also brought together commissioners for adult social care, children’s services and public health into a single team so that they can work together to ensure the right services are commissioned to meet local health and social care needs.

This integrated approach has put us in a strong position to work with the local clinical commissioning group on joining up health and social care across local government and the NHS. This will ensure that services are focused around residents – a top priority for council services over the next five years.

Dominic Harrison, director of public health, Blackburn with Darwen BC

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