A Lancashire public health team has scooped the national Quality Improvement Award for its work on bringing down the rates of children’s tooth decay in the borough.

This award, as part of the prestigious Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) Awards, recognises a public health team for establishing ways to improve public health practice.

The award came to the team at Blackburn with Darwen, who were recognised for their achievements in reducing the number of children with tooth decay. In 2019, 51 per cent of the borough’s five-year-olds had decayed, missing, or filled teeth – the highest proportion in England.

Under the leadership of Abdul Razaq, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, the borough published a five-year ‘Oral Health Improvement Partnership Strategy’ and, despite the challenges of covid and lockdown, remained committed to the implementation of the plan.

Actions as part of an oral health campaign included:

  • Introducing tooth brushing in nurseries and schools
  • Working with partners, including Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, to educate children on the dangers of sugary and fizzy drinks
  • Community outreach to help make sure all parents knew about the importance of regular tooth brushing

By working with community health champions and supporting initiatives to support those in the most isolated communities, the team saw incredibly positive results, and Blackburn with Darwen is no longer the local authority with the highest rate of dental decay for five-year-olds in England.

Abdul Razaq said, “This award is a well deserved national recognition of the work of the Public Health team and all our partners who have worked with immense commitment and dedication towards our goal to reduce the levels of child tooth decay. It was a massive privilege and honour to be able to accept this award on everyone’s behalf. Creating healthy smiles is a special gift for the health and wellbeing of our future generations”.

We are continuing with the work of getting more information to our children, parents and carers about tooth brushing, cutting down on sugary food and drink and good oral health overall, which will hopefully carry on helping to cut tooth decay in the borough.”

Damian Talbot, a councillor and executive member for public health, prevention and wellbeing, said, “This is excellent news and raises the profile of the exemplary work in Blackburn with Darwen, and I am delighted that we have won this award! It shows how our partnerships and collaborations combined with effective interventions can make a huge difference to outcomes for children and families in the borough.”

Julie Gunn, a councillor and executive member for children, young people and education, and the chair of the Oral Health Strategy Group, added, “This is absolutely wonderful news and is a real testament to the hard work and tireless commitment of public health’s Oral Health Strategy Group and all our teams and partners.

“There is still work to be done of course, but we are making big strides to tackle this issue and make sure all children in the borough have healthy teeth and good oral health.”

The ceremony was held at the Association’s Annual Conference in London, where over 70 directors of public health (DsPH) came together to discuss how to ease the impact on public health of the cost-of-living crisis and climate change.

DsPH are nominated by their peers and colleagues for the awards, introduced in 2022 to mark the 175th anniversary of the first-ever public health official.

Nicola Close, ADPH’s Chief Executive, said, “Our members are responsible for the health and wellbeing of the residents in their local areas in all four nations of the UK. Many of them also give their free time to contribute to the work of the association, which represents the voice of DsPH at a national level and so it is important that we recognise their outstanding contributions.

“Choosing a winner for each category was very hard as there are so many examples of our members going above and beyond to create an environment where local communities are able to live long, healthy lives.”