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WMHPG news, information and resources 18 October 2019

We do not accept responsibility for the availability, reliability or content of these news items and do not necessarily endorse the views expressed within them.

Sustainable development goals

The Health Impacts of Brexit: risks of harmful impacts increase whilst chances of positive impacts remain unchanged: https://phw.nhs.wales/news1/news/the-health-impacts-of-brexit-risks-of-harmful-impacts-increase-whilst-chances-of-positive-impacts-remain-unchanged/ “The report builds on a detailed analysis, The Public Health Implications of Brexit in Wales: A Health Impact Assessment Approach, originally published in January 2019, and examines the potential effects of Brexit on the short, medium and long-term health and well-being of people living in Wales. The original report and the update look at the likelihood and intensity of any potential positive impacts and opportunities, as well as potential negative impacts.”

UN Sustainable Development Goals: How does climate change jeopardise the chances of a sustainable future? https://blog.ons.gov.uk/2019/10/11/un-development-goals-how-does-climate-change-jeopardise-the-chances-of-a-sustainable-future/ “The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a global initiative that pledges to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The ONS has a leading role in the UK’s response and is now busy measuring our progress towards achieving each of the seventeen goals. As Fiona Dawe explains, measuring the social impact of climate change is emerging as a key theme of the work and was the subject of special ONS conference this week.”            

Assessing the impact of rising child poverty on the unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England, 2000–2017: time trend analysis: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/10/e029424 “This study provides evidence that the unprecedented rise in infant mortality disproportionately affected the poorest areas of the country, leaving the more affluent areas unaffected. Our analysis also linked the recent increase in infant mortality in England with rising child poverty, suggesting that about a third of the increase in infant mortality from 2014 to 2017 may be attributed to rising child poverty.”

The data behind mortality trends: explaining the recent improvement in mortality in England: https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/explaining-the-recent-improvement-in-mortality-in-england/ “One of the most important functions of a government is to ensure the health of its population, with the main indicator being measures of mortality such as life expectancy. Mike Murphy writes that, contrary to popular belief, current levels of mortality are the lowest ever recorded by a substantial margin.”

Harnessing data and technology for public health: five challenges: https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/blogs/harnessing-data-and-technology-for-public-health-five-challenges “Responding to the government’s prevention green paper. In this long read, we set out five challenges that the government needs to address if it is to harness the full potential of data and technology in public health, and offer a suggestion to help address each.”

We must turn the tide on inequality for all our children: https://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/we-must-turn-tide-inequality-all-our-children “A person's ethnicity can mean they're more likely to be locked in poverty than other people. It's the right thing to do to change our policies and systems to enable everyone to break free from poverty.”

Modelling the impact of alcohol duty policies since 2012 in England & Scotland: https://figshare.shef.ac.uk/articles/Modelling_the_impact_of_alcohol_duty_policies_since_2012_in_England_Scotland/9958763 “Changes in UK alcohol duty since 2012 have led to increased levels of alcohol consumption, greater levels of alcohol-related ill health, premature mortality, higher rates of alcohol-related crime and workplace absence than if the alcohol duty escalator had remained in place until 2015 as originally planned. There have been almost 2,000 additional deaths caused by alcohol in England and 250 more in Scotland as a result of these changes in Government policy since 2012. These additional deaths have occurred disproportionately in more deprived households, widening inequalities in health”

Vaccination Ethics: https://academic.oup.com/phe/pages/vaccination-ethics “To contribute to the current ethical and political discussions on immunization, we present a virtual special issue of Public Health Ethics that brings together some of the best work on vaccination ethics in the past few years. We look forward to receiving more work on immunization in the future.”

Healthy planning & environment

PHE Data – Wider Determinants of Health - Built and natural environment: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/wider-determinants/supporting-information/built-and-natural-environment An excellent starting point for data, toolkits, and evidence for practice

Urban green spaces raise nearby house prices by an average of £2,500: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/urbangreenspacesraisenearbyhousepricesbyanaverageof2500/2019-10-14 “Urban properties close to public parks, gardens and playing fields are more expensive, analysis reveals. Explore your area to see how much green space adds to the value of your property.”

‘Infrastructure revolution’ is road to nowhere: https://www.cpre.org.uk/media-centre/sound-bites/item/5185-infrastructure-revolution-is-road-to-nowhere “CPRE today strongly criticises the decision to go ahead with a significant £25 billion investment in new roads, which is incompatible with the government’s commitment to tackle the climate emergency. Ours and others’ research shows that building new and bigger roads actually drives more traffic, and consistently fails to show measurable benefits to local economies, while also leading to permanent and significant environmental damage. Climate change is the biggest threat facing the countryside and better public transport in rural areas is the best way to keep cars off the road and emissions out of the atmosphere.”

Stirling Prize 2019: A Momentous Moment For Architecture And Housing: https://housingevidence.ac.uk/stirling-prize-2019-a-momentous-moment-for-architecture-and-housing/ “Monday’s decision to award the Stirling Prize, the Royal Institute of British Architects most prestigious award, to Goldsmith Street in Norwich designed by architects Mikhail Riches working with Cathy Hawley was a momentous moment for architecture and for housing more widely. It celebrates the real skill of architects, those delicate design moves that can make such a difference not only to the way we people feel about a place as well as its long term value.”

New report reveals that prescribing nature is excellent value for money: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/new-report-reveals-prescribing-nature “A new report published today reveals that prescribing contact with nature for people who have low levels of mental wellbeing is excellent value for money by improving people’s health and wellbeing.” – more here - ‘Nature prescriptions’ would be cheap way to improve country’s mental health, study finds: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature-prescriptions-nhs-mental-health-nature-wellbeing-a9148751.html

Black absence in green spaces: https://theecologist.org/2019/oct/10/black-absence-green-spaces “People of colour spend less time in nature in the UK than white people. But we are often closely connected to nature in our countries of heritage - the disconnect seems to occur in the west.  Why is this? My ethnographic research explores the relationship of black and Asian people to nature in the UK, drawing on my work as a nature allied psychotherapist and leading a nature connection programme in London.”

Assessing effects from four years of industry-led badger culling in England on the incidence of bovine tuberculosis in cattle, 2013–2017: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-49957-6 “Industry-led culling was associated with reductions in cattle TB incidence rates after four years but there were variations in effects between areas.”

Two-thirds of U.S. birds face extinction due to climate-linked 'emergency': Audubon: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-science-birds-audubon/two-thirds-of-u-s-birds-face-extinction-due-to-climate-linked-emergency-audubon-idUKKBN1WP2PT “Two-thirds of bird species in North America, already disappearing at an alarming rate, face extinction unless immediate action is taken to slow the rate of climate change, the National Audubon Society said on Thursday.”

What's in the government's new environment bill? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-50044870 “A bill to tackle environmental priorities is to be published by the government later. It aims to improve air and water quality, tackle plastic pollution, restore wildlife, and protect the climate. Environmentalists have welcomed several of the proposals, especially on restoring nature. But they say on other green issues ministers are going backwards - and they're anxious to see details of the new policies.”

‘Devil is in the detail’: Criticism of ‘tokenistic’ environmental policies in Queen’s Speech: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/queens-speech-environment-bill-extinction-rebellion-recycling-plastic-a9155351.html “The government has announced measures to improve air quality, household recycling services and protect nature, but campaigners have warned although policies look encouraging the “devil will be in the detail”.”

Housing

What impact is the standard method for assessing local housing need having on housing requirements in local plans? https://lichfields.uk/blog/2019/october/10/what-impact-is-the-standard-method-for-assessing-local-housing-need-having-on-housing-requirements-in-local-plans/ “We’ve now undertaken further research which illustrates the startlingly different impacts that the standard methodology is having in the North and South of the country. The three northern regions in our original research were planning for a 13% uplift above the Standard Method, compared to a proposed under-supply of 6% in the South East and East regions. Our new research reveals that the negative impact of the Standard Method on housing requirements has become even greater.”

West Midlands experts call for policy changes to address the homelessness crisis: https://blog.bham.ac.uk/publicaffairs/west-midlands-experts-call-for-policy-changes-to-address-the-homelessness-crisis/ “Cities like Birmingham have been particularly affected, with official figures showing 23 deaths in 2018, the highest recorded number for any local authority in England and Wales. Despite this, there’s a clear recognition that something must be done… We brought together academics with local authorities, medical practitioners and support workers and asked them to consider what can be done to reduce homelessness and improve people’s quality of life.”

Government accused of wrecking plans to build more social housing: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/oct/11/government-accused-wrecking-plans-build-more-social-housing “Councils reacted with frustration to the one percentage point increase on public works loan board (PWLB) finance, which was imposed “out of the blue” this week, warning it could delay or scupper housebuilding and regeneration schemes. They said rise would lead to fewer council homes being built, and would reduce local authorities’ ability to build and maintain schools, roads and waste facilities, and invest in commercial property.”

Climate change & sustainability

Analysis: UK renewables generate more electricity than fossil fuels for first time: https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-uk-renewables-generate-more-electricity-than-fossil-fuels-for-first-time “In the third quarter of 2019, the UK’s windfarms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants generated more electricity than the combined output from power stations fired by coal, oil and gas, Carbon Brief analysis reveals.”

Rapid CO2 release from eroding permafrost in seawater: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019GL084303?af=R “We show that large amounts of carbon dioxide are being produced during the Arctic open‐water season. Our study indicates that eroding permafrost coasts in the Arctic are potentially a major source of carbon dioxide. With increasing loss of sea‐ice, longer open‐water seasons and exposure of coasts to waves, we highlight the importance of coastal erosion for potential carbon dioxide emissions.”

How accurately can the climate sensitivity to CO2 be estimated from historical climate change? https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00382-019-04991-y “We conclude that energy-balance estimates of   CO2  EffCS are most accurate from periods unaffected by volcanic forcing. Atmosphere GCMs provided with observed sea surface temperature for the 1920s to the 1950s, which was such a period, give a range of about 2.0–4.5 K, agreeing with idealised CO2 AOGCM experiments; the consistency is a reason for confidence in this range as an estimate of   CO2  EffCS.”

There has been wide, and varied, coverage of the global Extinction Rebellion protests. I have selected a few articles that provide an overview of the protests and the responses from different commentators;

Sea-level rise has claimed five whole islands in the Pacific: first scientific evidence: https://theconversation.com/sea-level-rise-has-claimed-five-whole-islands-in-the-pacific-first-scientific-evidence-58511 “These islands lost to the sea range in size from one to five hectares. They supported dense tropical vegetation that was at least 300 years old. Nuatambu Island, home to 25 families, has lost more than half of its habitable area, with 11 houses washed into the sea since 2011.”

Here’s how climate change policies could end up widening the wealth gap: http://www.anthropocenemagazine.org/2019/10/how-climate-change-policies-widen-wealth-gap/ “The findings suggest that without careful attention to equity, climate change policies could wind up reinforcing existing disparities in society rather than easing them.”

Acknowledging uncertainty impacts public acceptance of climate scientists’ predictions: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0587-5 “Predictions about the effects of climate change cannot be made with complete certainty, so acknowledging uncertainty may increase trust in scientists and public acceptance of their messages. Here we show that this is true regarding expressions of uncertainty, unless they are also accompanied by acknowledgements of irreducible uncertainty.”

Scientists endorse mass civil disobedience to force climate action: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-scientists/scientists-endorse-mass-civil-disobedience-to-force-climate-action-idUKKBN1WS01K “In a joint declaration, climate scientists, physicists, biologists, engineers and others from at least 20 countries broke with the caution traditionally associated with academia to side with peaceful protesters courting arrest from Amsterdam to Melbourne.”

Eden Project secures funding for geothermal power plant: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/eden-project-secures-funding-for-geothermal-power-plant-38592966.html “ The Eden Project has secured £16.8 million of funding for a geothermal heat and power project, with drilling due to start on the site next summer. This funding follows a 10-year campaign to bring the technology to Cornwall, where the visitor attraction opened in a former clay quarry in 2001. It comes from a mixture of public and private sources, with £9.9 million from the European Regional Development Fund and £1.4 million from Cornwall Council.”

Revealed: top UK thinktank spent decades undermining climate science: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/10/thinktank-climate-science-institute-economic-affairs “The UK’s most influential conservative thinktank has published at least four books, as well as multiple articles and papers, over two decades suggesting manmade climate change may be uncertain or exaggerated.”

Ghost Forests Are Visceral Examples of the Advance of Climate Change: https://time.com/5694648/ghost-forests-climate-change/ “Kirwan is standing in the midst of what is known as a “ghost forest.” These swaths of dead, white, trees are created when salty water moves into forested areas, first slowing, and eventually halting, the growth of new trees. That means that when old trees die, there aren’t replacements.”

Active travel & transport

CONSULTATION - The Draft Games Strategic Transport Plan: https://www.tfwm.org.uk/the-draft-games-strategic-transport-plan/ “The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will take place across the West Midlands from 27 July to 7 August 2022 and it will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to put Birmingham and the West Midlands on the map…  A key focus of the draft plan, known as the ‘Games Strategic Transport Plan’ is to make sure residents and businesses in the West Midlands can continue to get from A to B while over 1 million visitors and more than 12,000 athletes, Games Family and international media make their way around the region to training and competition venues. Are we focusing on the right things when it comes to transport for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games? Let us know by completing our survey:”

The draft plan covers things like how we will plan transport, principles for making decisions and the transport projects we are accelerating in time for the Games, which will help us move thousands of extra people around our transport network.

Effects of 20 mph interventions on a range of public health outcomes: A meta-narrative evidence synthesis: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140519301859?via%3Dihub “This review suggests 20 mph ‘zones’ are effective in reducing collisions and casualties. However, it provides insufficient evidence to draw conclusions on the effect of 20 mph ‘zones’ on pollution, inequalities or liveability. For 20 mph ‘limits’ more rigorous evaluations are required in order to draw robust conclusions.”

Birmingham floats £500 Workplace Parking Levy: https://airqualitynews.com/2019/10/10/birmingham-floats-500-workplace-parking-levy/ “o help tackle air pollution, businesses in Birmingham could be charged £500 to offer parking spaces to their staff, under plans being considered by the city council. A report on the plans for a Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) will go before the cabinet on Tuesday (October 15) and it is hoped the measure would encourage those working in the centre of the city to shift to ‘sustainable and active’ transport alternatives.”

I attended the Healthy City Design International conference earlier this week. Below are links to reports & toolkits from a session on active travel. Two of these are from the USA, but do have relevance to the UK context.

Air quality & pollution

One in four of London’s green spaces breaches air quality safety limits: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/193331/one-four-londons-green-spaces-breaches/ “They found that 24% of play spaces and 27% of public parks had NO2 limits exceeding safety standards, with 67% of private parks failing to keep within safe levels. The closest play space for 250,000 children under the age of 16 (14% of the city’s children) had NO2 concentration averages exceeding European Union limits, with the majority of children affected living in the most deprived areas of the city.”

Exposure to air pollution increases violent crime, study suggests: https://airqualitynews.com/2019/10/03/exposure-to-air-pollution-increases-violent-crime-study-suggests/ “The study, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, cross analysed daily criminal activity data in the U.S with the daily county-level air pollution from 2006-2013 and found that a 10 microgram-per-cubic meter increase in same-day exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is associated with a 1.4% increase in violent crimes. They also found that an increase of 0.01 parts-per-million in same-day exposure to ozone is associated with a 0.97% increase in violent crime or a 1.15% increase in assault.”

Air pollution could be turning men bald: https://airqualitynews.com/2019/10/09/air-pollution-could-be-turning-men-bald/ “Researchers from South Korea exposed cells from the human scalp at the base of hair follicles to various concentrations of PM10-like dust and diesel particulate. After 24 hours, the researchers performed a scientific process called western blotting, to study levels of specific proteins in the cells. The results showed that the presence of PM10 and diesel particulate decreased levels of β-catenin, the protein responsible for hair growth and morphogenesis.”

Food & food security

Global Hunger Index 2019: https://www.concern.net/insights/global-hunger-index-2019 “The 2019 GHI measures hunger in 117 countries where the assessment is most relevant and where data on all four component indicators are available. 43 countries out of 117 countries have levels of hunger that remain serious. 4 countries Chad, Madagascar, Yemen, and Zambia suffer from hunger levels that are alarming and 1 country Central African Republic from a level that is extremely alarming.”

Directors of Public Health back ‘bold action’ on childhood obesity: https://www.adph.org.uk/2019/10/directors-of-public-health-back-bold-action-on-childhood-obesity/ “The report clearly presents the evidence of the ways that social and commercial determinants of health overwhelmingly shape our weight. We support the recommendations to address these, particularly those tackling the production, supply, marketing and sale of high calorie sugar and fat foods. This is something our members have frequently called for, and we note there is strong public support for it as well. We were also pleased to see the emphasis on creating healthy places that give children ample opportunity to be active and healthy. Directors of Public Health have long played a key role in promoting children’s health in their areas, including by leading whole system approaches to obesity, of which the built environment is a core part.”

Italy proposes to cut prices for food sold without packaging: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/10/italy-seeks-to-be-a-sustainable-economy-leader-with-climate-bill “Italian shoppers could soon enjoy a discount on products sold loose as part of a range of measures expected to be approved by the government as it strives to take action on the environment. The initiative would give financial incentives to shopkeepers to reduce the price of food items and detergents sold without packaging, and of drinks, shampoos and other liquids sold from dispensers or in reusable containers.”

Leaked: Liz Truss’ department will push to weaken food standards for US trade deal: https://unearthed.greenpeace.org/2019/10/07/brexit-liz-truss-theresa-villiers-defra/ “A leaked briefing prepared for Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers warns that her ministry will come under “significant pressure” from the Department for International Trade (DIT) to weaken the UK’s food and environmental standards to secure a trade deal with the United States. The internal document states that DIT will push the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to “accommodate” American requests to lower the UK’s sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) post-Brexit.”

And finally….

Fat Bear Week 2019: Holly is the fattest brown bear in Katmai National Park, Alaska: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/10/2/20894942/fat-bear-week-2019-katmai-national-park-fattest-bear-contest “Over the past week, the employees of Katmai National Park have been asking people to vote, March Madness-style, on which bear has grown the fattest over the summer. The park has posted picture matchups of bear pairs on its Facebook page, and the public got to choose the fattest with their “likes.” This yearly contest began in 2014, and every year it becomes even more of a viral sensation.”

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