October has seen a tentative increase in confidence over halting the rise in childhood obesity by 2010, according to this month's HSJ Barometer of public health directors. August's low of 2.91 has risen to 3.52 out of 10.

Also edging up after a summer low is optimism in reducing teenage pregnancy by 50 per cent by 2010. Confidence over this target now stands at 4 out of 10 compared with August's 3.95.

Continuing the good news, confidence in achieving the 48-hour access to genito-urinary medicine clinic target by 2008 remains strong and now stands at an all-time high of 8.45.

The public health Barometer is based on an anonymous survey of 90 PCT public health directors and is run with the Association of Public Health Observatories. If you are a public health director and want to join the panel, e-mail rebecca.allmark@emap.com

Confidence scores out of 10

  • 48-hour access to GUM clinic target 2008: 8.45

  • Smoking cessation target 2007-08: 6.61

  • Drug treatment target 2007-08: 7.04

  • Alcohol dependency reduction target 2007-08: 4.05

  • Public health funding 2007-08: 5.52

  • Halt rise in childhood obesity by 2010: 3.52

  • Local development plan inequalities target 2008: 4.47

  • Reducing teenage pregnancy by 50 per cent by 2010: 4.0

National targets

  • Childhood obesity: 3.52

  • Cancer: 6.71

  • Teenage pregnancy: 4.0

  • CHD mortality: 7.76

Local targets

  • GUM clinic access: 8.45

  • Smoking cessation: 6.61

  • Drug treatment: 7.04

  • Alcohol dependency: 4.05

Excess winter deaths

Excess mortality in winter is an important public health issue in the UK. These extra deaths are greatest in both relative and absolute terms in older people and increase with age. Provisional figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in the winter of 2005-06 there were 23,200 more deaths among those aged 65 and over compared with levels in the non-winter period. In contrast, only 5,500 more deaths among those under the age of 65 were recorded. Recent data suggests there was a decrease in the number of excess winter deaths in 2005-06 compared with that of the previous winter but this was not as low as the number recorded in 1997-98, which had the lowest winter mortality in the past decade.

Regional patterns also show that the proportion of excess winter deaths increases with age. Although excess winter deaths are associated with cold weather, it is interesting to note that the colder regions in the north of England have a relatively smaller proportion of excess winter deaths than the warmer regions in the south thus suggesting that a multitude of factors contribute to these excess deaths.