Chief Medical Officer report out today, with contributions from SAHSU

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The Chief Medical Officer's annual report has been published today, highlighting the impacts pollution may be having on health. SAHSU researchers have contributed a chapter on "Pollution - data, surveillance and health impacts". 

In the latest annual report published today, titled "Health Impacts of All Pollution - what do we know?", England's Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies has called for pollution to be seen as a public health issue and not just an environmental concern. The report contains a series of recommendations for both the NHS and more generally. 

Read the full report here

Centre researchers from the UK Small Area Health Statistics Unit have contributed a chapter to the report on "Pollution - data, surveillance and health impacts". The chapter, written by Paul Elliott, Anna Hansell, Fred Piel and Daniela Fecht, highlights the large volume of data on pollution and health outcomes now available, and how this provides exceptional opportunities to carry out investigations into the impacts of environmental pollution on human health and for the detection and prevention of non-communicable diseases in the UK and elsewhere.

Centre members and collaborators also contributed to several other chapters in the report; For instance, Heather Walton from King’s College London provided valuable input for chapter 9, ‘Measurement and communication of health risks from pollution’ whilst Tim Gant, PHE lead for the HPRU, was a leading source for Chapter 2 ‘Pollution from the health and care System’.

In addition to the above mentioned centre members work in chapters of the CMO report, Prof Frank Kelly of KCL was also  on the CMO's Advisory Board covering Air Pollution issues. 

The report’s editor, Andrew Dalton said: “Pollutants are a part of daily life but as this report shows, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the threat they pose to health. Improving data on this is the best first step we can take to protect the public’s health as it will help us to identify any currently unknown future threats."

Key points of the report overall are:

  • Air and plastic pollution are hot topics. Steady progress is being made but more must be done.
  • The UK must widen its scope to understand the impact of consistent, long-term, moderate level exposure to air pollution and the pollutant veil of noise, light and chemicals.
  • This blanket of lesser known pollutants could risk undermining our committed efforts to improve public health.
  • Change will not happen overnight but what evidence we have, proves that some targeted interventions can make a real difference. The first step is taking action where we can make a real difference.
  • The next step is data collection and research. Research could herald real progress for devastating diseases – genomic mapping, for example, could reveal pollutant causes of cancer.
  • Unchecked pollutants could risk a triple jeopardy for vulnerable groups – risk factors can be exacerbated by poor air, noise and light control.
  • Local authorities are best placed to take action, supported by national guidance and regulations - local pollution does not travel and authorities have the powers to make a real difference. 
  • It needs to be simple for the public to make the non-polluting choice. Research, data and taking responsibility can make real change and protect our families against unseen harms.