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Link between EH and public health ‘must be restored’, says expert

Professor John Ashton makes case for rebuilding of professions.
28 April 2020 , Katie Coyne

Public health needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up, with the link between EH and public health restored after the pandemic, an expert has argued.

Former public health director Professor John Ashton said EHPs would be needed to undertake the “urgent task” to train up recruits to build the 18,000-strong contact tracing team required by the government to enact a plan to get out of the lockdown.

Ashton said he hoped EH’s vital role would be recognised. He said: “The whole public health system needs reviewing after this and it needs rebuilding from the bottom up – instead of from the top down, which is what's been going on.”

He added: “This is an opportunity for EH to be restored to its position that it hasn't been in for 20 years. This should be the time to re-evaluate what's happened to EH.

“It’s part of public health and EH being strong in local authorities together, and the need to reinvest in public health and EH in the town hall.”

This is not the first time Ashton has highlighted the importance of EH and public health, and their joint working. In September last year, in a letter in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, he highlighted the frailties in the system in preventing and dealing with outbreaks in infectious disease.

Ashton also spoke about the “stupid situation” that “needs to end” where public health directors are line-managed by directors of adult social care. He also argued that in the past there was more movement between EH and public health, so that EHPs could, and did, become public health directors.

He added: “I think you might want to raise the issue about joint training of public health and EH. You need more crossover between the two. There's a great shared overlap – there used to be.

“In the Ministry of Health days, the environmental health officers were part of the Ministry of Health departments.”

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