The Chief Executive of Public Health England visited Swindon on 6 July to gain insight into a wide range of work in the Borough, including drugs and alcohol treatment, support to ensure young children thrive and a pioneering initiative to tackle adult obesity.
Duncan Selbie, joined by Professor Debra Lapthorne PHE South West Centre Director, was welcomed to the town by Swindon Borough Council Leader Cllr David Renard and Director of Public Health Cherry Jones before going on to meet frontline staff in a variety of roles.
His first port of call was the CRI (Crime Reduction Initiatives) offices, in Sanford Street, where he met staff and service users who have benefited from alcohol and substance misuse support services. Through joining forces with organisations including Wiltshire Police, Great Western Hospitals, SEQOL and charities including the NSPCC, staff at SOLAR (Swindon Options for Life and Recovery) and STARS (Swindon Treatment and Recovery Service) showed how partnership work was pivotal in achieving positive results. Literally singing the praises of the support available, service users in the group choir gave rousing performances of Oh What A Beautiful Morning and Lean On Me.
Later in the morning, the visit moved on to The Meadow Centre in Penhill where he learned how frontline public health workers across a range of roles are co-located in the community – an innovative set-up unique to Swindon. Practitioners, including Health Visitors and School Nurses, work alongside colleagues such as social workers and youth engagement staff to improve health outcomes for all children and young people.
This was followed by a discussion and display about the pioneering Football Fans In Training scheme, which Swindon was the first to pilot in England this year following its widespread success in Scotland. In January 30 local football fans, aged 35 to 65, embarked on the 12-week programme, delivered in partnership with Swindon Town Football in the Community Trust. Collectively they shed 40 stone through football-based exercise and improved diet. Bearing testimony to its impressive results, the participants triumphed in their debut international tournament last weekend in Edinburgh, beating 16 rival teams.
Cllr David Renard, Swindon Borough Council Leader, said: “We are delighted that Duncan chose to visit Swindon and witness in person the sheer scale and variety of work which goes on in the Borough daily to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of all residents. It was a brilliant opportunity to show how our joined-up and innovative approach is reaping real rewards. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank staff who work, sometimes in challenging situations, demonstrating great dedication and skill to achieve positive results.”
Duncan Selbie said: “It has been fascinating coming to Swindon to see first-hand the fantastic work which goes on here. I have been particularly impressed by the clear partnership work, demonstrating an integrated approach to helping people of all ages with a wide range of issues. The results of the Football Fans In Training pilot were particularly impressive and provide food for thought about effective ways to tackle obesity, delivering sustainable results.”