Transferring public health to local government has driven the prevention agenda

The transfer of public health to counties is having the impact the architects of the change envisaged it would. That is the core conclusion of our latest research, commissioned by the County Councils Network. It is based on interviews with directors of public health, senior councillors, council chief executive and other stakeholders in county areas.

Action by public health teams is beginning to influence the wider determinants of health through joint working on planning, transport, housing and economic development. Council commissioning and procurement processes are enabling a move away from traditional services and going some way to mitigating the consequences of reduced budgets. Councillors have become powerful advocates for public health within councils and local communities.

Our research identifies the drivers of an effective public health function which include the strength of the public health team’s relationship with the corporate core of the council, and the effort devoted to relations with district council and health partners.

Our research underpins the importance of the recognition in the NHS Long Term Plan that action by health providers on prevention is a “complement to, but cannot be a substitute for, the important role of local government.” There is a need for a review of the relationship between the NHS and local government on public health, not to dilute the local government role, but in order to consolidate the position of public health in councils and build on what has been achieved since 2013.

Download the full report here.

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