On the 26th and 27th of October, the seventh annual Welsh Public Health conference took place at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport. The conference, titled ’Building on our strengths to ensure a healthy and sustainable future’, aimed to take a creative approach to exploring health and well-being challenges and solutions in Wales.
The conference ran over two days and explored topics such as;
- Brexit: The impact on health and well-being inWales,
- E-technology: Can personal e-technology tools improve and protect health,
- Supporting communities facing economic uncertainty: A model for creating resilience, and;
- The air we breathe: Environmental threats in Wales.
I, Jess, attended day 2 of the conference and enjoyed a busy day of presentations, group activities and networking. The opening talks were given by a selection of highly regarded medical professionals and decorated researchers. Of particular interest was Dr. Chrissie Pickin’s talk on behaviour change, ‘Understanding people’s choices and how to influence them.’ Chrissie presented a straightforward, down to earth explanation of why individuals still made poor choices regarding their health and wellbeing despite the extensive education they may receive. A phrase that Chrissie used particularly resonated – “For every complex issue, there is an easy to implement, WRONG solution.” A phrase that you may recognise if you follow us on Twitter.
Following the opening talks, we launched straight into a session on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We learnt about ACEs and ACE-informed training developed by South Wales Police. As almost half (47%) of the population in Wales has suffered at least one ACE and 14% have four or more the situation in Wales can be much improved. Public Health Wales believe that the mental well-being in Wales could be dramatically improved if young people were not exposed to harmful experiences in childhood. The reasons behind these figures and the importance of being ACE-aware are further explained in the following cartoon;
In the afternoon I managed to fit two sessions in; lightening talks and social prescribing. The lightning talks comprised of four stations. Each delegate wore a pair of headphones which could switch between channels, each one associated with a different station and therefore different talk. Of the four talks I caught during this session I particularly enjoyed the talk by Dr Yamni Nigam on the use of maggots in wound repair, and her ongoing research at Swansea University. The photographs were particularly mesmerising, especially after the buffet lunch! The final spotlight session, social prescribing – linking community assets for health and wellbeing, was very informative and useful considering the numerous projects we have been/are involved in where this mechanism for health and social inclusion would benefit our participants. It also linked in well with the lightning talks by Hywel Dda UHB on GP practice based social prescribing and Torfaen CBC on the way they are tackling wider social determinants of ill health through social prescribing.
Social prescribing, as defined by Public Health Wales, recognises that people’s health is determined primarily by a range of social, economic and environmental factors. Social prescribing seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way by improving access to wellbeing service and community assets. Social prescribing enables medical professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services through a link worker or navigator, who connect individuals to the most appropriate community support. This support can involve a variety of schemes or activities such as gardening clubs, walking groups or befriending services, which are typically provided by voluntary and community sector organisations. Social prescribing allows individuals to take greater control of their own health and may also lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services.
To close the conference, guest speaker Michael Sheen and Public Health Wales Chief Exec, Tracey Cooper took to the stage encouraging collaboration, cooperation and spreading the message of a strong NHS in Wales.