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Bar staff could spread public health message

Bartenders, waiting staff and sommeliers could be called upon to help communicate key messages on public health, a government-funded report has suggested.

Rethinking the Public Health Workforce, a report published today by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), suggests that some 15 million workers, including firemen, hairdressers and postal workers, could form part of “wider public health workforce” to disseminate the government’s message on public health.

The report calls for anyone who has “the opportunity or ability to positively impact health and wellbeing through their work” to join its effort by communicating the dangers of excessive drinking, lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, among other public health messages.

Health professionals such as pharmacists and physiotherapists, who work outside of core health settings, were identified in the report, commissioned by the Department of Health, Public Health England and Health Education England.

Less conventional was the report’s identification of a wider potential workforce which included kitchen, bar and waiting staff, cleaners and hairdressers, all of which it said have regular contact with the public and therefore the potential to communicate health advice. Separate research by the RSPH suggested one in four people would be prepared to take public health advice from people in such professions.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the RSPH and chair of the people in UK Public Health Government Advisory Group said: “By engaging with these occupations to become advocates not only might we help support these individuals to improve their own health and wellbeing, but by reaching out to the people they interact with could be significant.

“Many of these occupations enjoy trusted relationships with the public and have golden opportunities to reinforce and support conversations about lifestyle health issues in a sensitive and non-judgemental fashion. It is clear from our research that this is already happening and we want to industrialise this approach as a new way of helping improve the public’s health.”

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