Woman and two children choosing veg at a supermarket

What is Public Health?

Public health is about helping people to stay healthy, and protecting them from threats to their health.

So many factors have an influence on our physical and mental health. Our age, sex and the genes that we inherit from our parents are important ones. Then there is the way we live our lives; our diet and levels of physical activity, whether we smoke and drink alcohol and cultural beliefs about health.  In addition, how we interact with family, friends and social networks, as well as how safe and secure we feel in our homes and on our streets are crucial to all of us.  Education, work – paid and unpaid - and the physical and social nature of our villages and towns and transport systems are all major influences.

Then there are the wider effects of our economic systems which underpins our ability to act on individual and collective levels and which can help or hinder efforts to reduce health inequalities. Behind all this is the impact of the natural environment, including its bounties like food and water and its natural and sometimes manmade hazards such as epidemics, severe weather and pollution. Finally, of course, health and social services also have an impact, and particularly our use of preventive health services such as immunisations, screening programmes and health advice, and the support that they provide to us in times of need.  


 The determinants of health

The science and art of public health seeks to improve health, and equally to reduce inequalities in health, by impacting on any of these influences at any level.

It obviously follows from this that some things such as our age and sex we can do little about directly, while other influences require major politically-led efforts across society or even across the globe. But for any individual the most important thing that we can do to improve and protect our health is to educate ourselves to understand these influences, and then make the best choices for ourselves, our families and our communities.  


What has Bath & North East Somerset Council got to do with Public Health?

Local councils are in a unique position to influence people’s health. Bath & North East Somerset Council makes all kinds of decisions about planning, licensing, transport, cultural activities, housing and social care that will have big impacts on its resident’s physical and mental health.

In addition, the Council works with local communities on a regular basis and understands the needs of the local area and so is uniquely placed to be able to work with communities to improve their health and wellbeing and to make planning decisions that impact communities health in a positive way.  

Public Health help and advice

The Council’s Public Health team works with a wide range of health and social care  professionals (including doctors and nurses in GP surgeries and hospitals), schools and colleges, the police, fire service and other Council colleagues across Bath and North East Somerset  to promote the health of local people.

Public health services commissioned by the Council include the NHS Health Check, Alcohol and Drug Services, Sexual Health services, Get Active programmes and Injury Prevention.

Services are also commissioned where you can get free advice and support to stop smoking, lose weight, eat healthier, get more physically active and learn cooking skills. Virgin Care Services Limited will provide the majority of the services previously provided by Sirona Care & Health from 1 April 2017. The services will still provide the same support, be funded in the same way and in most cases you will continue to see the same colleagues as you have seen before. If you have questions, please speak to the team from the service you work with – or you can contact Virgin Care’s Customer Services Team on 0300 303 9509, or by email: customerservices@virgincare.co.uk. See http://bathneshealthandcare.nhs.uk/

If you are an employer and would like to take steps to improve the health of your workforce support is also available to achieve the Workplace Wellbeing Charter.

Want more information?

 Training Opportunities

We are a training department where public health specialty registrars join us for 1 to 2 years as part of the Severn Deanery training programme for future consultants. We also welcome enquiries and visits from people interested in working in public health who are not sure if it’s for them or not sure where to start.


 Tobbaco Control - New Year Quitting Campaign!

Smokefree - New Year 21

The rate of success among smokers who try to quit is higher than ever, but fewer smokers are trying to quit than in 2007, when numbers peaked. Now is a teachable moment and we must not waste this opportunity. There has never been a more important time to support smokers to quit:

  • To improve their health and wellbeing and help them stay out of hospital
  • To protect others from secondhand smoke exposure in the home
  • To reduce their financial outgoings at a time when unemployment is rising and many smokers will be suffering significant cuts to their income

Evidence shows that COVID-19 has increased the likelihood of smokers making a successful quit attempt. As healthcare professionals you have a key role to play in encouraging them to take the first step in making a quit attempt, using the most effective methods to increase their chances of success:

  • Smokers who get help from stop smoking services can increase their chances of successfully quitting by up to three times
  • Smokers who don’t want to engage with, or have access to, stop smoking services should be encouraged to use alternative forms of nicotine, such as patches, gum and e-cigarettes, to help them quit, as these have been shown to increase their likelihood of success
  • Dual users (those who are still smoking as well as vaping) should try to switch completely to vaping for their health.

The Campaign

The campaign centres around a powerful new film commissioned by Southend Borough Council which tells the stories of some of those who made the quitting journey in this turbulent year and calls on others to “put it down, put it out”. The film is the work of spoken word artist Megan Cannon working in collaboration with film maker James Chapman of Paisley Productions.



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