Earlier this month, courtesy of the Coastal Communities Alliance, I had the privilege of taking part in online presentation given by Professor Chris Witty, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England in which he outlined the detail of his 2021 Annual Report: Health in coastal communities, first published in July of this year.
In late July I circulated that report with a note highlighting what I believed then and still do, to be its much wider significances in England and potential beyond. In this of all year the CMO had deliberately chosen to major, not on Covid-19 but on the health and wellbeing of coastal communities. In the report he looks in some detail at the shared conditions and circumstances that contribute to generally poorer health and wellbeing, outcomes, clear articulates what the wider causes and consequences are, why they are occurring and makes some robust recommendations. Most of these, if implemented, would have positive socio-economic consequences attached that would improve social and economic conditions (including tourism and the visitor economy) rather than just health and wellbeing alone; because of course these things are all intrinsically linked.
After pondering the impact of the report again over the last week I am forced to conclude that coastal destinations, individual or jointly may still be underplaying their hand and missing this rare golden opportunity to reinforce, full and proper understanding, at all levels of Government, of the causes and effects of their shared common social, economic, health, demographic and physical issues. I could of course be wrong and the report may have already been widely circulated and proactively used to highlight both the health and wellbeing issues and the wider problems that cause them and multiple other issues for coastal communities, many of which are popular, arguably tourist dependant destinations.
These matters have been repeatedly highlighted over the last two decades but proper understanding and a will to do something about them have waxed and waned between “campaigns”. As perhaps illustrated by the loss of the Coastal Communities Fund, necessarily targeted interest in the coast may again be on the wane? It is also worth considering that, although health and latterly wellbeing has been included within every reiteration back to at least the 1999 British Resorts Association’s Behind the Façade report, the public health narrative has usually been edited, if not authored, by economists and statistician and not by anyone with anything like the current profile, the medical background or the indisputable authority as that of the CMO for England. The opportunity that this level of authority brings to the health debate and, by inference, to everything associated with it should also be grasped by all, whether or not health and wellbeing is your discipline or that they sit neatly within your own portfolio.
If you have not done so already, please consider circulating the report to national, regional and local politicians and to officers and officials and to any and all other key, contacts including those working in health, social and economic development. In around 8 months’ time the CMO will issue his 2022 report on a different health related subject. If the 2021 report has achieved some real traction by then it will continue to have wide utility for some time to come. If it hasn’t it may quickly become old news and, thus, be far more ease to ignore or simply forgotten.
My original note with the link to report can be accessed at: https://britishdestinations.net/2021/07/27/chief-medical-officers-for-englands-annual-report-2021-its-significance-for-uk-coastal-tourism-interests/
The report can also be found in the British Destinations Research library under “Research and statistics – by year” and the “+” main menu tabs of Britishdestination.net. These are in date order so you need to look back a few reports. https://britishdestinations.net/research-and-statistics/.
It is also included in the “by theme” dropdown menu under “coastal/seaside” specific reports: https://britishdestinations.net/research-and-statistics/or-by-theme/coastalseaside/