I am writing this blog as I approach the end of six months working within the Public Health directorate at Hertfordshire County Council. As I reflect on the time I have spent here, this opportunity has brought me so much in knowledge, experience and exposure.
Having a biological sciences background, health was certainly an area I was interested in working in. However public health I felt generally unfamiliar with, having studied health more from a biological/anatomical perspective.
I have been fortunate enough to get a varied placement within the department, including working closely with the University to launch PH Connect and deliver our partnership masterclasses. Our most recent session on the future of public health, brought together professionals across the county from a wide range of organisations. The session allowed constructive discussion about how we all can consider public health in the work we do and bridging the academic research with professional practice.
In six months, the key message has definitely been that health is much more than simply healthcare and the NHS. There’s been an abundance of new vocabulary to learn during my time here, but some of the most frequently appearing phrases have certainly been ‘health inequalities’ and ‘wider determinants of health’. To me, these words represent the principle that public health is central to all the services we as a council deliver. Considering education, economic hardship and the environment have been areas I didn’t originally picture having any involvement when joining the team, but now cannot imagine working in Public Health without.
Predominantly, I have been working with the Healthy Places workstream on a number of projects in relation to health and housing – one of the many wider determinants of health. Supporting our Hertfordshire Warmer Homes service and developing a workshop for health and social care professionals on housing quality, in partnership with our districts, has really solidified my understanding of just one aspect of population health.
The value of public health has only become clearer to me as I have learnt about the demographic challenges we face in Hertfordshire and how public health operates in an ever-changing environment. Challenges surrounding future service funding and evolving governance structures, alongside the growing demographic pressure, create an environment that at-times feels difficult to operate in. Whilst funding causes many to feel anxious about the future, there is optimism about new workstreams and ideas, embracing the challenges and complexity.
As I continue my training in another directorate, I will be sure to incorporate the new vocabulary and experiences from the Public Health team as I move across the organisation. There is no doubt I have been provided with new skills, and a new way of thinking that is not only transferable but essential for considering how we provide and design our services. I hope to come back.
Thanks for a great six months.