Professor Kevin Fenton will take on his new role as the new strategic director of place and wellbeing for Southwark Council in September, writes Clara Gaspar…
Professor Fenton was appointed to the new role in last month, having been director of health and wellbeing at the council since April 2017.
Before that, he acted as Public Health England’s national director of health and wellbeing.
The new council post has been created as a temporary one, from September 2018 to September 2020, and will focus on tackling health problems across Southwark during a period of widespread regeneration.
Professor Fenton has a PhD in Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University College London, and has focused on the prevention of HIV and other STDs throughout his career.
The council’s newly created ‘place and wellbeing’ department will focus on planning, regeneration, community, voluntary sector engagement and public health, and the council says it will ensure that changes taking place across the borough will put community and public health at the forefront of its work.
A department spokesperson says it will strive to “deliver regeneration and development that works for all underpinned by a strong understanding of what our residents are telling us is important to them.”
The council’s recent survey, ‘Southwark Conversation’, involved nearly 3,000 local participants, and highlighted the need for more community engagement with health and wellbeing.
Southwark has a long-standing problem with public health, particularly obesity.
In Southwark about three in ten reception-age children are overweight or obese; this increases to about four in four by the time they reach Year Six. Currently, more than a half the adults in Southwark are overweight or obese.
In addition, for sexual health diagnoses, Southwark has been ranked as the fifth highest borough in England, as well as ranking third highest in England for gonorrhoea and syphilis diagnostic rates.
Professor Fenton, said: “It is a privilege to lead this ground-breaking new initiative aimed at ensuring that regeneration works for everyone by creating healthy places, encouraging connected and resilient communities.
“The new place and wellbeing department will work across the council, with local communities, interest groups and our partners to promote healthy living and reduce health inequalities in Southwark.
“By creating an environment with the wellbeing of its residents at its heart we will be better able to tackle our current and future health challenges including social isolation, physical inactivity, air pollution, and mental ill health.
“We know that the way we plan, design and shape our communities can have huge impacts on our health and wellbeing.
“It influences our opportunities to make healthy choices, the ways in which we engage with and support our neighbours, the services we are able to access, and ultimately our life chances.”
Council leader Peter John said: “I am delighted to welcome Professor Fenton into his new position.
“This is an exciting new role that will cross departmental boundaries to deliver improved outcomes for all our communities.”