The Faculty of Public Health recognises the dire financial situation that local authorities are placed under, and the importance of integrating health and social care.
But putting directorates of social care and public health under the leadership of someone from a social care background is not the answer.
Social care is overwhelmingly about dealing with social challenges once they have arisen.
It is akin to the NHS focus on disease rather than the public health focus on prevention.
The natural links with public health in local government are in environmental health, housing, trading standards, education, recreation and regeneration.
It is easy to see how the movement of monies between these budgets will be a natural progression, with serious implications for the public health ring fenced grant
None of these skills are usually to be found in those who head up social services departments.
Indeed the lack of such formal training programmes for those who head up social care should be a matter of much concern.
These areas are all part of the five-year training programme that public health specialists complete to a high level of competence, and which give them the skills to assess local health needs and assets, to undertake epidemiological, statistical and policy analysis and to deliver and evaluate evidence based interventions for health and wellbeing.
Modern public health consultants have a strong understanding and working links with many agencies and bodies including those from across local government which make a contribution to public health.
The faculty is also concerned about the consequences of the same person managing the social care and ring fenced public health budget.
It is easy to see how the movement of monies between these budgets will be a natural progression, with serious implications for the public health ring fenced grant.
It is very important that the director of public health is able to present a robust and independent voice for public health, a function with historical roots that reach back over 150 years.
It is vital that the director of public health is free to present an independent public health report on the state of the health and wellbeing of the local borough to the full council, with the media present.
This report is akin to that of the district auditor.
The director of public health must have the ability to present arguments that may be uncomfortable for elected members or others if we are to have a robust and effective public health function.
John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health