Dr Justin Varney
Director, Public Health, Birmingham City Council
Dr Justin Varney leads the public health function in Birmingham, England’s 2nd city. He joined the city in 2019 following six years leading adult and older adults health and wellbeing programme at Public Health England. Originally training in general practice he moved early across to public health medicine and started his career in Barking and Dagenham in East London. His career has spanned local, regional, national and international levels of the public health system and included roles such as Thinker in Residence at the University of Sydney, independent advisor to the national Council for Health and Work and Policy lead at the Prince of Wales’s business charity Business in the Community. Justin has a special interest in lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans health inequalities, physical activity policy, homelessness and domestic violence prevention and diversity and inclusion. He holds an honorary chair at University of Birmingham and honorary doctorates and fellowships from three of the city’s universities, and is an honorary fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
Responsible for protecting and improving the health and wellbeing of over one million citizens, he had been in post for just 12 months when the covid pandemic hit one of the youngest, most deprived and most diverse cities in Europe. Navigating the city through the rapidly changing landscape of evidence, guidelines and politics drew on all of his 20 years of experience in health and public service. In his reflections he will share the reality of leadership in the uncertain times and against overwhelming odds and ever changing science and data, the importance of compassion and collaboration with communities and share some of the moments of insight that have shaped his post-pandemic leadership.