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'We need to ensure the best aspirations of the Leave campaign are delivered and the worst predictions of the Remain campaign are avoided'

Statement by Professor John Middleton, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health, on the vote to leave the European Union:

The British public has voted to leave the European Union (EU). The implications for the UK of leaving the EU are sinking in, but repercussions and ripples are being felt much more widely in Europe and around the world.

For many in the public health community, the vote to leave the EU is extremely disappointing. Over 80% of Faculty of Public Health (FPH) members who responded to a survey on the matter supported remaining in the EU. Our board considered its statement long and hard and concluded, clearly, on best available evidence, that staying in would be better for the health of the public. But that is history.

It has been a bitter and divisive campaign – but now is not the time for acrimony. We need to ensure the best aspirations of the Leave campaign are delivered and the worst predictions of the Remain campaign are avoided.

We will revisit the FPH statement on the EU referendum and take a risk-management approach to best protect the health of the public in the UK, in Europe and beyond. We will look at how we can build up the important public health role in maintaining constructive international relationships and a wider understanding of security: economic, environmental, social, as well as territorial. We will examine the implications of post-EU economic policies recognising the major impacts on health and health inequalities these are likely to have. And we shall endeavour to secure, maintain and enhance public health protections gained through workplace, environmental, social and public health regulations. We will need the help, support and commitment of FPH members in this work.

The public health community needs to lead action to tackle air pollution, climate chaos and migrant health. In this time of self-interest, we need to be the collective voice and conscience for the dispossessed, the disabled and disenfranchised, and to protect the health of this and future generations. We must not allow ourselves or our political leaders to withdraw from our global responsibilities.

The UK has been a European leader in tackling antimicrobial resistance, in securing better standards in pharmaceuticals and in tobacco control. We need everyone in the public health community to work together to debate calmly and constructively, to speak with authority and to the evidence. I will be discussing with senior national colleagues in public health how we retain a UK leadership role in public health for our UK citizens, in Europe and internationally. We need to ensure that health and life expectancy gained over 40 years in the EU are not lost, but built on. And we need to lead international efforts to tackle new public health scourges in our global village.

Written: 24/06/2016 , last modified: 14/07/2016

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