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Published: 04/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5799 Page 16 17

An actor dressed as Victorian public health pioneer Dr William Duncan took a horse and carriage tour of some of the historic public health sites of Liverpool last week, to commemorate the end of a 155-year-old tradition of directors of public health in the city.

Dr Duncan, who was born in Liverpool in 1808, became the UK's first medical director of public health in 1847.This week, with the end of health authorities and the creation of primary care trusts and strategic health authorities, the role will disappear.Each of Liverpool's three PCTs will have a multi-disciplinary director of public health.

The tour included the Royal Liverpool Institute, the Blue Angel nightclub and stopped at Liverpool town hall where the 1847 Liverpool Sanatory (sic) Act was read out.

At a time when Liverpool was one of the busiest ports in the world, Dr Duncan carried out pioneering investigations and improvements into sanitary conditions.He was one of the first public health doctors to recognise that living conditions affected health.More recently, Liverpool was one of the founding members of the World Health Organisation's healthy cities project.

Dr Duncan's direct successor as director of public health, Dr Ruth Hussey, said: 'Liverpool has had 10 directors of public health, or equivalent, for 155 years.April 2002 sees an end to that era and the creation of three multi-disciplinary directors of public health in Liverpool PCTs and a total of 15 in Merseyside and Cheshire.The challenge now is to close the gap in health inequalities in this region.'

Pictures by UNP/Victor de Jesus