Archive | February, 2014

Making public health matter

25 Feb


According to Public Health England the health of people in Newham is “varied compared with the England average”. Which is a polite way of saying it’s mostly worse. Specifically:

  • Deprivation is higher than average and about 24,000 children live in poverty.
  • Life expectancy for both men and women is lower than the England average.
  • Within the borough, life expectancy is 5.0 years lower for men and 5.5 years lower for women in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived areas.
  • Over the last 10 years, early death rates from cancer and from heart disease and stroke have fallen, but the latter remains worse than the England average.
  • In Year 6, 25.6% of children are classified as obese, worse than the average for England.
  • Rates of sexually transmitted infections, smoking related deaths and hospital stays for alcohol related harm are worse than the England average.
  • The estimated level of adult physical activity is worse than the England average.

But on the positive side:

  • Levels of GCSE attainment, alcohol-specific hospital stays among those under 18, breast feeding and smoking in pregnancy are better than the England average.
  • The estimated level of adult ‘healthy eating’ is (surprisingly) better than the England average.
  • The rate of road injuries and deaths is better than the England average.

Public Health England identified the priorities in Newham as: tackling heart disease and stroke; immunisation; maternity and early years care; cancer; circulatory diseases; and long term conditions.

The Health and Social Care Act of 2012, which heralded the current unnecessary and damaging reorganisation of the NHS, also transferred responsibility for local health improvement to local authorities, including Newham. The transfer ctually took place on 1 April 2013, some nine months after the Act received Royal Assent.

So Sir Robin had a bit of time to think about how he might approach this and to include a bit about public health in his ‘Mayor’s Contract’. After all, what could be more important to improving the lives of Newham people than making them healthier?

Can you guess how many times does the word ‘health’ appears in the Mayor’s Contract 2013/14? Zero. Not even once.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. Improving health is hard work, it takes a long time and it’s really difficult to move the needle even a little. Most of the evidence of success will come years down the line, long after Sir Robin has moved on to City Hall or the House of Lords. And it’s not the kind of work that lends itself to photo opportunities.

But it is vitally important. In May Sir Robin is asking for another 4 years in power. His councillors and those who aspire to join them are already out on the doorstep, pushing leaflets through letterboxes and talking to voters. We must take this opportunity – it won’t come again for another 4 years – to push public health onto the agenda. Ask the canvassers what the Mayor’s proposals are, what he (and they) are going to do make Newham a healthier place.

And if Sir Robin deigns to hold a public meeting or two, turn up and ask him directly.

Westminster Bridge

18 Feb

via Instagram

Across the Thames

18 Feb

via Instagram


14 Feb


Prompted by stories about how Newham is setting its proverbial dogs on the borough’s homeless I made this.

Apologies for the crappy Photoshop, but it’s the best I can manage.

There’s an unpleasant whiff of machismo about the mayor and his attitude towards the poorest and most vulnerable members of our community.


6 Feb


Same suit, same shirt. Even their ties match. And it’s not the first time:


It’s like they’ve been playing in the same dressing up box.


Tube strike

5 Feb

tube sign

Hat tip to @RooftopJaxx for pointing me at where I made the sign.