Health and wellbeing. Ten actions to put people and communities at the heart of the action

Featured article - 15 December 2016
By Suzanne Wood, Improvement Fellow, The Health Foundation

Head-shot of the author, Suzanne Wood, Improvement Fellow, The Health Foundation

"I was a quivering, shivering wreck on 21 tablets a day. Now my children are amazed that one person can change so much in such a short space of time." Creative Minds group arts participant run by the Artworks in Halifax

It is amazing to think that the simple act of attending a group art class could have such an impact on someone’s physical and mental health, to say nothing of their wellbeing. Or is it? If I asked you to list the three things that are most important in keeping you healthy I wonder what they would be? For me it might be walks in the countryside with my husband and young son or attending a knitting group, which I love. I am pretty sure your top three would not include involvement in formal health and care services.

Over the last 18 months work has been going on to better understand the evidence for approaches like group activities; and also how these can be implemented in ways that benefit not just individuals but also provide value for health and social care services, as well as delivering wider social benefits. Called “Realising the Value, it’s been led by Nesta and the Health Foundation, and delivered by a consortium of partners.

We partnered with sites who each focused on a particular approach: peer support; self-management education, health coaching, group activities and community asset based approaches. Our final programme report sets out ten key actions to support our vision of people and communities being at the heart of health and wellbeing. But it is also clear that on its own ‘the what’ won’t be enough. That is why we also recommend five key actions on ‘how’ change should happen. At its heart, embedding more person- and community-centred approaches is dependent on different relationships and conversations.

This means, for instance, staff in health and social care services working in partnership with those using services as well as local commissioners. But it needs to be led by genuine co-production at all levels. In our report looking at the role of national bodies, we point to many excellent models and resources, including the work by SCIE, which provide practical advice on engaging with people and communities. Like an art class, this might all feel like a small step but co-production can be at the beginning of developing and delivering services that put people and communities at the heart of their health and wellbeing.

Realising the Value was an 18-month programme funded by NHS England in support of the NHS Five Year Forward View vision to develop a new relationship with people and communities. The programme was led by Nesta and the Health Foundation, working in partnership with Voluntary Voices (made up of National Voices, Regional Voices, NAVCA and Volunteering Matters), the Behavioural Insights Team, PPL and the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University.

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