Duncan Selbie's Friday Message – 5 June 2020
Review of disparities
This week, we published the findings of our review of disparities in the risks and outcomes from COVID-19, which confirms that the impact of the disease has replicated existing health inequalities and, in some cases, exacerbated them. The largest disparity found was by age, with people diagnosed with COVID-19 who are aged 80 or older being 70 times more likely to die than those under 40. Being male, living in more deprived areas, and being from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background were also found to be associated with worse outcomes, with the racial/ethnic disparity remaining even after accounting for the effects of age, sex, deprivation and region.
However, there is still much more work needed and PHE’s Regional Director for London, Professor Kevin Fenton, has been engaging with a wide range of organisations within the BAME community to hear their views and concerns over the past few weeks. This valuable insight is now informing work being taken forward by the Government’s Equality Hub, led by the Equalities Minister, Kemi Badenoch MP, to ensure a shared understanding of the relationships between different risk factors and how policy and communications may need to be modified and where appropriate, new approaches put in place to address this critical concern. You can find the full terms of reference here.
The ‘R’ number
This week, the Government has begun to ease lockdown measures, with the phased reopening of schools, groups of people now able to meet in outdoor spaces, and people who have been shielding being able to leave their homes and spend time outdoors.
Today the regional reproductive (R) numbers generated by PHE and Cambridge University, one of a small number of groups that inform SAGE, have been updated and this modelling shows that the R number has risen in all regions in England. Whilst this is to be expected as we ease out of lockdown, the guidance on social distancing and hand washing remains as important as ever.
Hot weather and COVID-19
The national heatwave and summer preparedness programme began this week and there are some additional considerations as many of those most vulnerable are also at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection. This year, there will be more people staying home during the summer months where they may be exposed to high indoor temperatures and for some, more likely to be socially isolated, which is another known risk factor for heat related deaths. We have updated resources and developed a slide pack outlining the intersecting COVID-19 and hot weather risks, which you can see here.
Sexual and reproductive health
We have published a new return on investment tool that quantifies the costs and benefits associated with a range of sexual and reproductive health interventions for young people aged 15 to 24. Together with the accompanying report, the tool will help to estimate the impact that commissioning different services would have on population health, as well as which interventions represent the best value for money for local authorities and the NHS.
And finally, although COVID-19 is rightly dominating our work, planning is continuing for our new public health science campus and headquarters in Harlow, Essex. A virtual exhibition was opened this week showing new images, designs and a video fly-through, which you can visit here.
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