Public health campaigns praised

Liverpool’s eye-catching public health campaigns to tackle issues such as obesity, alcohol intake and sugar consumption have been praised in a new national report from the Local Government Association (LGA).

It is now six years since local authorities took over responsibility for public health from the NHS, and the LGA’s Public Health Annual Report for 2019 looks at eight areas which have made a difference since 2013 – including Liverpool.

Liverpool hit the headlines in 2015 when it became the first local authority in the country to name and shame manufacturers of fizzy drinks, yogurts and cereals with high sugar content in its ‘Save Kids from Sugar’ campaign.

The public health team have also devised the ‘Drink Less Feel Good’ campaign which equates the number of calories in alcohol to fast food such as donuts and burgers, and the ‘Drink Less Enjoy More’ drive to encourage bar staff not to serve people who are clearly drunk.

The LGA praises Public Health Liverpool for its “comprehensive approach to creating health campaigns based on insight work, co-development with local people and measuring impact”.

Public Health Liverpool has also helped drive up breast feeding rates, by commissioning the peer support group ‘Liverpool BAMBIS’, which has upped the prevalence from 27.6 percent to 35 percent since 2010.

The ‘Fit for Me’ programme to increase activity rates among adults found 18 percent of the people who were aware of the campaign had taken action as a result of seeing it.

The report also notes other public health work, including Liverpool recently signing up to become one of the HIV ‘Fast-Track Cities’ to eradicate the virus by 2030, and ‘Let’s Clear the Air Liverpool’ which is highlighting the impact of air pollution and the steps people can take to minimise it.

It urges the Government to make sure that its forthcoming Green Paper on prevention ensures proper funding for local government public health departments, following a £700 million real terms reduction from 2015-2020.

Liverpool’s Cabinet member for adult social care and health, Councillor Paul Brant, said: “Liverpool City Council and its partners have made a concerted effort to improve health and wellbeing since public health came back into the council six years ago.

“It has been a great opportunity to integrate their work into other departments because decisions taken by one part of the council can have an impact on another.

“However, although we have done great work, the fact is that we are having to cope with less funding, and cuts to public health and and councils means that we cannot make progress at the speed and reach we would like. Unless funding is increased, very difficult choices will need to be made.

“We also need more health-related powers to be devolved from national to local government around issues such as licensing, planning and taxation, to give us more freedom to tackle the unique challenges we face.”

Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board, said: “All of this excellent work is in the context of a reduction to public health grant funding of over £700 million.

“The forthcoming Government Green Paper on Prevention should allow us to consider the opportunities for prevention from a system-wide perspective which includes all the social determinants of health.

“However, it must be based on engagement with councils and with the public health community, and for any progress to be made it must be accompanied by proper funding for local government public health.”