“Public Health is about working with our communities to make a difference so we can achieve the best health outcomes.”
The Public Health team at Warwickshire County Council (WCC) dedicate their time to helping people from all backgrounds across the county to stay healthy whilst working to prevent threats to their health.
Isher Kehal, a Public Health Principal at WCC, covers a broad area including housing and homelessness, the physical and built environment and transport, but focusses on prevention and reducing health inequalities across the population of Warwickshire. This involves tackling economic and social inequalities particularly for disadvantaged groups and deprived areas.
Isher said: “I have a particular focus on the public health aspects of housing and homelessness in Warwickshire. I work in partnership with the district and borough councils to make sure this vulnerable population is supported appropriately to improve their physical and mental health. This was particularly crucial during the pandemic.”
When working on strategies for public health, residents lived experiences are at the heart. The team organise sessions with experts and residents to get their voices heard so the actions in the strategy to tackle public health issues make a direct impact on the community.
Public Health is relevant across all areas in the council and each service is encouraged to think about health in its decision making. Isher said: “At the moment I am working very closely with the planning and transport teams at WCC. We’re working in partnership to think about decision making and actions, and how the built environment around us directly impacts our health.
“As a Public Health Principal, I have a responsibility to ensure that I provide evidence and data, for example illustrating the importance of having green space and the impact this has on health and wellbeing.
“Public Health was consulted to review WCC’s Local Transport Plan, so detailed feedback was provided from a public health perspective such as having bike lanes in appropriate areas but also conducting community engagement to understand if it’s what those residents need and if it’s accessible to all.”
Public Health also work very closely with the Children and Families service, particularly on the Child Friendly Warwickshire programme, providing evidence and data to support actions that will benefit young people so that they can lead healthy and independent lives. Isher added: “We have really great partnerships and working relationships across the Council and with the voluntary and community sector. Whether it’s education, children and families, housing, transport or employment, we work together to understand and address common goals.”
Isher joined WCC in October 2020 mid-pandemic after finishing her PhD at Coventry University. Her research focussed on public health outcomes, particularly around the attitudes, intentions and behaviour in young people around safe sex decision-making, which drew her to working for a local authority. Isher added: “I had heard about Public Health in Warwickshire as colleagues from Coventry University worked closely with the team, so I knew already the team was great. I joined Public Health in a community engagement role during the pandemic which involved making sure the right information was reaching all the different communities in Warwickshire.”
“I was really drawn to the Council as I wanted to apply my experience in the public health environment, particularly during the pandemic, and during my interview everyone was so passionate, and I really felt I could bring something to the team. A few months after joining, there was an opportunity for a Public Health Principal post focussing on the wider determinants of health, and I was lucky enough to get it.
“Every day I learn something new. The Public Health team is so amazing. We work collaboratively to improve the health and wellbeing of Warwickshire residents. We work as a team, and we learn a lot from each other.”
Public Health is one of the many service areas across the Council that’s making a big difference to the lives of residents in Warwickshire. Isher commented: “Public Health is about working with our communities to make a difference so we can achieve the best health outcomes. Populations in different areas can have completely different health and wellbeing needs. We have a massive opportunity to impact and improve the health of our residents which is really rewarding.
“Public Health isn’t just making a direct influence in the community but also indirectly by winning the hearts and minds of colleagues across the Council and county and encouraging them to think about how they can embed Public Health or consider health in their work programmes. There is so much work that goes on behind-the-scenes which has a ripple effect and then consequently impacts communities across Warwickshire.
“Everyone in our team in Public Health works here because we all have a common goal, to make a difference. It’s always amazing to work with people who want to improve health and wellbeing.”
At WCC, employees are given the opportunity to explore and further their career. Being responsible for the diverse needs of the county means there are a variety of opportunities for everyone. To find out more about working for Warwickshire and to view current vacancies, visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/jobs.