Re: Raiding the public health budget
I am writing in response to your article published on 28 March on Public Health matters with particular reference to local authorities and the public health budget.
I wanted to start by commending you for highlighting concerns in some areas of the country. Clearly if there is evidence that Public Health in some areas is not functioning well or funds earmarked to improve public health are not being used for this purpose, then reporting this in a prestigious journal like the BMJ is very helpful. However, I think what this article lacks is balance and in my view it would have been more informative if examples of areas where public health is flourishing and finances are being managed appropriately were also included in this article.
In my own local authority area of Wiltshire the council has put public health at the heart of its business and it has also used its own fund to supplement public health programmes such as free swimming for school children during all school holidays. I may have expected that this activity which promotes health and wellbeing, should have been paid for out of public health funds but the council actually funded it through its leisure budget. It has also promoted very successful campaigns engaging the wider community in health and wellbeing initiatives; such as making a Big Pledge to improve personal health or the health and wellbeing of others. Raising awareness is one step, engaging hundreds of people to make a difference is clear evidence that in Wiltshire we take public health integration and matters seriously.
So while accepting the need to publish evidence of concerns about local authoritities and public health budgets, I do think there are many areas like Wiltshire which are delighted to support the health of the public and have embraced the new responsibilities in a very effective and positive way.
Maggie Rae MScPh DipEd FRSPH FFPH
Competing interests: No competing interests