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Public Health England priorities in 2021

13th July 2021

This year’s remit letter from Jo Churchill (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care) to Michael Brodie, Chief Executive at Public Health England (PHE), was published today confirming PHE’s strategic remit priorities for 2021 as an Executive Agency of the Department of Health and Social Care.

In the letter, the Minister thanks PHE’s staff for their vital role in protecting and improving the public’s health since the agency was formed in 2013 and, in particular, for their contributions to the pandemic response stating:

COVID-19 represents the greatest health challenge in living memory. Everyone working in PHE has shown extraordinary dedication in the face of this global challenge and your work has, and continues to have, a tremendous impact”.

The letter also builds on the Government’s plans to strengthen the public health system, including this year’s ongoing transitioning to new public health arrangements with the establishment of the United Kingdom Health Security Agency and the new Office for Health Promotion (OHP).

PHE will continue to respond to the wider health impacts of COVID-19, as well as acting on the following key priorities:

  • Reducing health inequalities
  • Obesity, healthy weight and nutrition
  • Mental health
  • Tackling health harms
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Early years
  • Public health reforms

We are delighted to see that the Early Years are once again formally acknowledged as a priority for the Government as a key part of their plan to reduce health inequalities. The remit letter also recognises the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children’s health and development, especially those children and young people identified as vulnerable within the Vulnerability Framework.

The key early years priorities for 2021/22 include:

  • Modernisation of the Healthy Child Programme, with a focus on speech, language and communication, and intensive parenting support to contribute to reducing health inequalities.
  • Contributing evidence to Leadsom’s Early Years Review for maternity and the first 2 years.
  • Improving the evidence and developing training to support a healthy weight and healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and during early years (0 to 5).
  • Supporting the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in the evaluation of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire digitalisation programme, and provide data and analytical support for contract negotiations.

Georgina Mayes who has recently joined the iHV as Policy and Quality Lead said:

“I am delighted to see the Government’s renewed clear commitment to the early years with prioritisation of levelling up to ensure that no child is left behind. This work to reduce inequalities and improve outcomes for all children cannot start soon enough. Health visitors, as leaders of the Healthy Child Programme, will be central to the delivery of these plans through their universal reach into all families. We look forward to working closely with PHE to support the translation of these priorities into practice.”

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