Outgoing Peterborough health chief believes early child development is key to tackling city’s inequalities

Focusing on early child development will help Peterborough tackle some of its inequalities, according to the city’s outgoing public health chief.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 4:55 am

Dr Liz Robin, who retired on Friday, believes adverse health outcomes in adult life can result from issues at a much younger age.

Peterborough has wide variances in its life expectancy among different communities, and Dr Robin is hopeful that some of the engagement during the coronavirus pandemic will prosper in the future to help bridge that gap and improve health outcomes throughout the city.

She told the Peterborough Telegraph: “One thing I’d like to see a focus on long term is the impact on early child development. People’s adult lives are often based on early child development and getting the best start in life.

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“The Department of Education has shown in statistics that this is an issue for Peterborough. But there is a lot of very good work going on about this.

“One thing happening during Covid was developing the programme to get best start in life measures in place to give children that confidence in later life.”

Asked why early child development was an issue in Peterborough, Dr Robin replied: “It’s quite complex. It’s something we observed for different reasons.

“Things we’re trying to push is how parents and carers develop their child’s language skills so they can succeed at school and communicate with other children and teachers. They can get left behind.

“It’s related to social and economic factors. We do have a programme that’s designed to work with a range of communities and I hope that continues in the future.”

And it’s just not in child development where Dr Robin hopes communities will engage with public health experts after noticing greater recognition across the country about its potential benefits.

“I think people have a lot more knowledge about public health now. I think there’s a lot more interest and that can be built on,” she added.

“We’ve been working with lots of different communities in Covid and what we’ve really learnt is to have those conversations and what they can do.

“There are things which are very hard to address in people’s lives leading to health inequalities, but people can be empowered with healthier activities and not smoking.

“There are also a lot of measures we can take with heart disease and diabetes. It’s a mix of lifestyles and medicines.

“Relationships built (with communities) during Covid can transfer well to broader factors going forward. That’s an opportunity. It started before Covid and I hope it carries on after Covid.”

Peterborough has seen public health spending cut per person from £61 in 2015/16 to £54 in 2021/22, although the latter is an increase on previous years.

Asked whether there needed to be more government investment in public health, Dr Robin replied: “In Peterborough the grant is too low when benchmarked with similar authorities. We need to lobby for fairer funding.”