Dave Bradburn was appointed as Director of Public Health for Wirral in October 2022 after nearly 30 years of working in Public Health including the role of Acting Deputy Director of Public Health in Warrington from 2017.
We sat down with Dave to learn more about what first interested him to work in public health, what he is most passionate about, and what he’s most excited about working on in the future of Public Health in the Wirral.
Welcome Dave. What first interested you in working in public health?
I must admit, I didn’t really know what Public Health was when I initially graduated from Liverpool John Moores University, 30 years ago. I was unemployed at the time and someone approached me regarding an employment training opportunity in the Knowsley Public Health team and I thought it sounded interesting. It turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. After just a few weeks I knew I loved it and I’d landed in the right place with some really good, like-minded people.
I remember thinking at the time that the work that the Knowsley Public Health team were doing was making a real, positive difference to a lot of people who desperately needed it. We were doing a lot of work around coronary heart disease prevention and that’s when I first thought ‘wow, Public Health does look as if it’s got a lot to offer’. This then led to an opportunity to apply for a post in South Cheshire as a ‘health improvement advisor’ working on skin cancer drugs and alcohol projects. It was a brilliant role and this enabled me to complete my Master’s in Public Health.
What piece of work are you most proud of that you have been a part of in the past?
This is a really tough question, but I’ve got to say definitely the work during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic completely took over everyone’s lives and it was an extremely difficult time for everyone, the whole of society. But it also galvanized everyone to work together on a single public health emergency and I am immensely proud of the flexibility of all the team and the speed at which we were able to implement brand new services and testing centres.
It was an extremely intense phase which I wouldn’t want to go through again but I am so proud of everyone involved and how we all came together and delivered a response, not just Public Health teams but also much broader than that, across the Council, all the partners, communities and voluntary sectors. Everyone that stepped up to keep people safe and save lives.
What are you most excited about working on now that you’ve settled into your new role?
I’m only five weeks in so I’m still settling into the role, but on a personal level I do have a strong connection to the Wirral. I grew up there and my wife’s side of the family are all from the Wirral as well. In terms of the professional side of settling in with the Council, the partners and everyone that I’m working with I don’t think it could have gone any smoother, the first five weeks have been a joy.
After 28 years working with some incredible people in the Warrington Public Health team, it was very difficult to leave, however, I can already see that Wirral is an exciting place to work and the people have got that same mindset and enthusiasm of wanting to work on the wider determinants of health.
We are definitely not starting from scratch. There are already many examples of excellent work in Wirral and the foundations are already in place. They have just written a brand-new health and wellbeing strategy, which was launched in my first week and although I didn’t write it, it is virtually the strategy that I would have liked to have written. Health inequalities and the All Together Fairer work are central all the way through the strategy, capitalising on regeneration and the opportunities of the economic regeneration.
Whilst I cannot claim the credit for writing it, I will hopefully be able to claim at least some of the credit for delivering it, working collaboratively and making sure that partners, the voluntary community, the faith sector and everyone who was involved in writing and delivering the strategy can take ownership for it. That is what I’m really excited about.
What are you most looking forward to when working as a part of the Collaborative with the other eight directors of public health?
To start off answering this question I’d just like to say that we are extremely proud to host the Collaborative and the Champs Support Team. I’ve been a part of the Collaborative for quite a few years in my previous roles and I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to work closely with the other Directors of Public Health and I thoroughly enjoyed working with them all.
The Collaborative is brilliant and from a Director’s perspective, I think the cooperation, coproduction, and the way they work and support each other, and the quality of what they bring to a collaborative approach is fantastic. I’m looking forward to continuing to be a part of that.
What are you most passionate about in public health?
Tackling health inequalities. Making a real positive difference to people’s lives on a population level. And partnership working, that’s where I get my job satisfaction from, working with others and seeing the results and the outcomes, the difference that we’re making. Particularly regarding social injustice and tackling health and inequalities.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I’m definitely an outdoor person. I love being outdoors. I love exercise. I enjoy going to the Lake District and spending time with my family and I am very competitive in my sporting life.
I am proud to have represented my country as a British Team Wild Water Racing Canoeist for many years. Winning two bronze medals at European Championships and Gold medal at the World Championship in the over 35 masters category.
I don’t do as much racing as I used to do but I still very much enjoy the training and pushing myself hard. I do a few challenges and I still get on the water once or twice a week but my big racing days are probably over now. I do a lot of cycling, rock climbing and mountaineering, hill walking. I’m also a massive Liverpool fan, so I go to most of the home matches too.
What does the future of Public Health look like for the Wirral?
Well, a lot of the foundations are already in place and it’s an exciting place to be, so it’s just about building on those foundations now, building on the new health and wellbeing strategy, and building on the fantastic partnerships that we have in place. There is a massive opportunity here to make such a difference to people’s lives going forward for decades to come and breaking that cycle of deprivation and those inequalities on a longer term and on a much more sustainable basis.
So, I think all of that looks fantastic in terms of where we’re going with the people that we’ve got. We have got a brilliant workforce in place that can go on for future generations.