The meeting brought together creative people and organisations that see health as more than just avoiding illness. It was a chance to share and critique each other’s work, learn together and, collectively, grow this alternative approach to health.
Facing the challenges
In half-a-day, the Collaborative could only scratch the surface of how to support true community-defined health. It was clear that everyone saw a huge opportunity to improve lives, but important challenges began to emerge.
A big challenge identified was the ‘bottom up revolution versus top down evolution’. There was a heartfelt debate on whether it was appropriate to include existing statutory organisations in creating health at a community level. Many felt that including such organisations meant that any community voice, and so prospect of real change, was crowded out; others argued that without introducing them, at the appropriate time, any change would be unsustainable as no ongoing funding would be forthcoming.
Among the challenges, there was one area of clear agreement: the importance of going to the community to understand their priorities. This shouldn’t be about expecting people to attend a ‘consultation’ event. Organisations need to get out of their buildings – “There is no substitute for door knocking!” – an important reminder of how community-defined efforts to improve health must stay grounded or they will miss the point, and the opportunity.
The rich discussion will feed into a Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity commissioned report on the evidence for the impact of enabling communities and individuals to improving health, and will inform the Charity’s thinking on what role they might play in this important agenda.
The first UK-based Creating Health Collaborative meeting involved individuals from Big Local, Bristol Health Partners, Citizens UK, Community Organisers, Connecting Communities, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, The Health Equalities Group, Lankelly Chase, The Living Well Network, NHS England, Pembroke House, The RSA, Well Communities, Well North, Timebanking UK, University of Exeter, and Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network.
To find out more, please visit the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity website.