Happy New Year

January 9, 2017 in Blog by Andrew Furber

I read on twitter a few weeks ago that those looking forward to the end of 2016 clearly hadn’t thought through what was in store in 2017.

Last Friday, the end of the first week in January, I received a phone call telling me of the sudden and unexpected death of a good colleague. This was the third such heart breaking news I’ve had in the last few weeks. Three colleagues around my age dying prematurely; all leaving children who were too young to be losing a parent.

As Directors of Public Health, reducing premature mortality is our bread and butter. It’s easy to forget the individual stories. To paraphrase Stalin, a thousand deaths become a statistic, one death is a tragedy.

None us predicted the events of 2016 and surely none of us can tell what 2017 will bring. We know we face the uncertainty of Brexit and the continuing effects of controlling public expenditure. Parts of the UK will see further changes to their health and care systems. We will all face the challenge of improving and protecting the public’s health with much less resource than we’d like.

As I travel around the UK meeting ADPH members I have become even more impressed by the work Directors of Public Health do, and the importance of the role within the local system. ADPH will continue to advocate for the importance of the job and articulate at a national level the difference you are making in your locality.

But the job is not an easy one. The job is big enough in its own right with a significant board level/corporate remit, but many are now taking on additional responsibilities. This is great recognition for the role and for those individuals, but it also brings added pressures.

ADPH already has a number of ways to support our members and this offer will develop further in 2017. Please do not hesitate to contact the ADPH office or me directly, if as a member you would like advice or support which you think ADPH may be able to offer. Where we can help we will, and if we can’t we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. Any such contact would be in the strictest confidence.

I am aware that many DsPH have local support mechanisms, for example through local networks, learning sets or mentoring. From time to time it is worth reflecting on our own resilience. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’m taking my lead from the Five Ways to Wellbeing and will try to do something new each month. In January I’m planning to have some friends over for a Burn’s Supper. Possibly somewhat heretical to be hosted by an Englishman, and even more so as for me at least it will be alcohol free as my Dry January will, hopefully, still be in progress.

As I reflect on the lives of my three recently departed colleagues, I am reminded that each lived their lives well. Each one leaves a significant legacy both in their personal and work lives and these will be, quite rightly, celebrated.

Also on twitter I read this conversation:

“2017 will bring flowers.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I’m planting flower seeds.”

There will be many things that will happen in 2017 that are beyond our control, but there are also things that won’t happen unless we make them.

So may I wish you a peaceful and happy 2017 and thank you for all you do for ADPH.