Reflecting on our conference

We were delighted to welcome over 120 delegates from across the third, private and public sectors to our conference on Thursday last week. The event aimed to shine a light on the importance of prevention and partnership for health improvement and was an opportunity to look back at some of our work and its impact over our first five years.  

The conference was opened by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor Richard Cripwell, CB, CBE, who reflected on his personal and professional experiences to focus delegates on the importance of health improvement for an inclusive community.  

Following this, our Chief Executive Dr Simon Sebire gave an overview of the Commission, our vision, mission and model. He also talked about our work and throughout the day our team introduced delegates to five short films, one from each of our workstreams which highlighted our work and its impact. The films will be uploaded to our website shortly. 

Then it was on to our first Keynote speaker of the day Professor Kevin Fenton, CBE, FFPH, FRCP, PhD. Professor Fenton is President of the UK Faculty of Public Health and he outlined current complexities and challenges to the health of the public, the case for investing in prevention, early intervention and heath equity and a vision for the future. His talk was engaging and inspiring and stimulated a lot of discussions in the break!  

"In fact, we know that 42%, nearly half of all our ill health and early deaths, are linked to potentially preventable risk factors. And when we look at these risk factors, we see factors such as diet, high blood pressure, tobacco, and alcohol, are the major behavioural risk factors. Prevention requires us to be comprehensive and multilevel. In other words, it must require individual community and societal interventions working concurrently and consistently over time to have its impact. Prevention can be cheap, but it can be even more effective if it is invested in to have those prevention interventions at scale.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health.

Director of Public Health, Dr Nicola Brink MBE then provided delegates with local data on public health challenges, and information about how we work in partnership with Public Health Services, from governance and strategy to projects in the community.  

Our second Keynote speaker was Dr Kelly Parsons, Research Associate in food systems, from the University of Cambridge. Dr Parsons used food systems as an example of how the whole of civil society has a role to play in shaping our health, including cross-government action, joined up policy making and tackling the commercial drivers of health. Dr Parsons used thought provoking examples such as the junk food advertising ban on the Transport for London network and London’s 'Food in all Policies' approach to bring her extensive work to life, telling delegates how there was a:

“Huge toolbox of levers for tackling non-communicable diseases and the levers are held by many hands.”

Dr Kelly Parsons, University of Cambridge

After lunch, delegates took part in a workshop which asked them to identify actions that they could take, in their sector of work or influence to support health improvement across our five workstreams. In 40 minutes, over 250 ideas were generated ranging from sustainable funding, alcohol-free social opportunities, workplace health, healthy school meals, breastfeeding support, active travel infrastructure and health and fiscal policy and regulation.  We were delighted with how positively people engaged with the workshop. 

Two question and answer sessions with our panel of speakers were chaired by Mike Bane, the Commission’s Chair. A wide range of topics were covered, from healthy meals in schools, using behavioural science to inform practice, the need for shared high-level community-wide outcomes, the threats of conspiracy theories and the diversity of the wider health/health improvement sector. 

Finally, it wouldn’t be a Health Improvement Commission event if we didn’t walk the walk (literally!) and put on a healthy event. Many people cycled to the event and made the use of two car parking spaces which were designated as additional cycle parking by St Pierre Park Hotel. Throughout the day, those that were able were invited to break up their sitting time by giving ‘standing ovations’ after each talk. Delegates were also encouraged to use the standing tables at the back of the auditorium. St Pierre Park provided an excellent healthy buffet lunch and nutritious refreshments which received many positive comments from delegates. We were also delighted that children from St Martins Primary School joined us to lead two Daily Mile walks around the hotel grounds for delegates at lunch time.  

We were really inspired both by our speakers and by the positive energy in the room for the future of health improvement. We hope to can capture this momentum and continue to build effective partnerships for health.  Thank you to our speakers and our delegates, as well as our hosts St Pierre Park and our event sponsors; Adventure Cycles, Clarity CI and Aspida Group.