Agenda item

Director of Public Health County Durham Annual Report 2020/21


The Committee considered the Director of Public Health, County Durha Annual Report 2020/21 (for copy see file of minutes).


The Director of Public Health confirmed that under the National Health Service Act 2006, one of the statutory requirements of the Director of Public Health was to produce an annual report about the health of the local population and the local authority had a duty to publish the report.


The government had not specified what the annual report might contain and has made it clear that this is a decision for individual Directors of Public Health to determine.


The Director of Public Health Annual Report for 2021 focused on the following:

·        Foreword

·        Health and wellbeing across County Durham

·        Approach to wellbeing

·        County Durham – our health roadmap

·        COVID-19 – response and recovery

·        Update on strategic priorities

·        Specific focus on 3 remaining strategic priorities; Promoting positive behaviours; High quality drug and alcohol services; Better quality of life through integrated health and care services

·        Revisiting the Taylors with a focus on real life case studies

·        Update on recommendations from 2020

·        Recommendations for 2021 based on the three priority areas of focus


Councillor Kay queried the higher than average rate of obesity in children in County Durham which also had higher rates of child poverty as children in poverty were assumed to be underweight.  The Director of Public Health confirmed that children in poverty were more likely to be overweight due to the challenges for parents to provide good healthy food.  If a family was struggling financially or with time to prepare food, often the easiest and cheapest option was to provide food that was less healthy.  This had led to work around poverty such as holiday activities which would include the offer of healthy food. 


Councillor Kay referred to test and trace and asked what had became of track and trace and whether there was a difference.  The Director of Public Health advised that what was originally called track and trace had been renamed as test and trace and was a national system, which were all operated by the Uk Health Security Agency and some of the test and trace services were delivered locally.  In response to a further question the Director of Public Health advised that there Public Health England had been disbanded to different parts of the system which were Health Security Agency but the costs associated still remained.


The Chair confirmed that in her opinion, the obesity crisis had to be solved by the government - supermarkets encouraged junk food offers and it was understandable that parents went for the cheap and convenient food.


Councillor Quinn advised that obesity weight management courses were offered through GP’s and commented that bariatric people suffered at end of life although would still try to lose weight.  She suggested that obesity and poverty were also linked to hot food takeaways and people with the least amount of money would still go to takeaways rather than making healthy homemade food.


The Director of Public Health advised that the North East Clinical Lead had appointed a Manager to look at the different tiers of the service and quality standards as there was a variation across the North East.


Councillor Martin welcomed the emphasis on reducing the figures for smoking, which was almost a factor towards poverty for those who had an addiction.  He asked whether there was an explanation why figures increasing and whether there was a similar increase in smoking during COVID-19 as there had been with alcohol.


The Director of Public Health confirmed that people had returned to smoking during the pandemic and young people had taken up smoking.  Fresh North East had kept advocacy work at local, regional and national level but attention may have been elsewhere during the pandemic and it was time to refocus on tobacco as it was an addiction that hopefully people could be prevented from starting in the first place.


The Chair referred to the potential health impacts of vaping as many people had taken this up as an alternative to smoking and she queried whether any studies had been undertaken.  The Director of Public Health advised that vaping was 95% safer than cigarettes however it was essential to ensure that young people did not take up vaping and would consider targeting, marketing and how vaping was being promoted.


Councillor Robson referred to time at school due to COVID-19 and the impact on physical exercise.  At times people were discouraged and he suggested that encouraging more exercise and increasing physical education sessions or inviting clubs into schools to encourage children to join.  The Director of Public Health praised the work done in schools worked during the pandemic, to try and keep to the key curriculum and physical activity was included.  There was a physical activity strategy being developed, which included various exercises that could be done at home such as walking out with family to sports and was ambitious in terms of what the service wanted to see.  County Durham had great opportunities, which did not come at a high cost and this was something that needed to be considered when emerging from COVID-19 impacts.


Councillor Hunt added that smoking drop-ins were all stopped during the pandemic with the only access being online and queried what was being done to get smoking clinics back up and running.  With regards to vaping, Councillor Hunt suggested that it was a new trend for young people and was not something that should not be encouraged.


The Director of Public Health advised that a new service was being transitioned during the pandemic and they did deliver the programmes but many were online.  There was also the additional pressures on pharmacies and GP surgeries to deliver the vaccination programme, which were still being delivered most but they were starting to liaise again on some of the pre COVID-19 programmes.


The Director of Public Health advised that she would take the concerns regarding young people and vaping and consider this with colleagues in order to build this into the plan and she acknowledged the role of the Committee in raising important issues such as this.


Councillor Earley added that he was pleased to see the policy that prohibited planning consent for hot food takeaways in the vicinity of schools contained in the County Durham Plan.  There were already such high numbers of takeaways that when Members were considering town centres, other uses should be encouraged instead of constant proliferation of unhealthy uses.


The Director of Public Health advised that there was an environment that did not just consist of takeaways but an increase of unhealthy food delivered to doors.  When considering Towns and Villages, healthy places and mental health should be considered with public health input.  Corporate Directors were looking at priorities underpinning prioritites, but practical examples like hot food takeaway policy but what does it look like in terms of towns and villages


The Chair noted that there were programmes about cooking but people tended not to and there was an issue in getting children to grow up with the ability to cook and in her opinion had to come from within schools and this was an issue that needed to be prioritised by the government.


Advertising tobacco had been made illegal and had also been changes to advertising alcohol, but legislation was required across all levels of unhealthy choices.


Councillor Quinn thanked the Director of Public Health for using the Taylor family as a community champion which would hopefully continue the good work done by the Durham County Council.





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