Communities in Cornwall should be empowered to help improve the health and wellbeing of their residents.
This is the message from Cornwall’s Director of Public Health, Rachel Wigglesworth, in her 2022 annual report.
It outlines a fresh approach to boosting people’s physical and mental health, highlighting the value of local assets such as the people in our community and voluntary sector organisations, green spaces and community buildings.
The Covid19-pandemic showed the power of people helping other people, and local knowledge in supporting the health of those in their communities.
Following on from this, the idea now is for public sector health and wellbeing services to work more collaboratively with communities, engaging with residents to understand local needs and deliver solutions.
This would include working more creatively with the likes of schools, colleges, businesses, voluntary organisations, doctor’s surgeries, recreational facilities, churches and food banks to tailor services.
This ‘community asset-based’ approach to public health and wellbeing has already begun, for example with more than 40 social prescribers now working in GP surgeries and communities.
With detailed knowledge of local community assets, these practitioners can refer patients to groups and activities that will help boost their wellbeing and address wider health issues so they are not relying solely on medication.
Other examples include the new network of one-stop Community Hubs, led by the voluntary sector, and the multi-agency Safer Towns Programme.
The approach could help ease pressure on traditional health settings while also reducing inequalities and promoting inclusion and diversity.
Rachel said: “An asset-based approach challenges us to create the conditions for community assets to thrive, to remove any barriers and for our services to work alongside communities in ways that are empowering, engaging and meaningful.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the creativity, passion and resourcefulness of our communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. They have demonstrated they have the resources and the commitment to support the wellbeing of people who need it most.
“Building on the strengths of our people and communities and supporting them to help each other, is how we will ultimately improve the health and resilience of our residents.”
There are many different ways to map the assets across Cornwall’s communities. This can range from conversations with ‘hyper networked’ local residents, to developing digital resources. Understanding where there are already strong assets, and where funding needs to be more focused, can help level up between geographical areas.
Residents should also be encouraged to give their views on what is needed in their communities to improve their health and wellbeing. The best solutions are designed together.
Rachel added: “The aim is to shift power to a genuinely collaborative, community-based approach to improving health and wellbeing and delivering services differently.
“We are starting from a good baseline in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We are well known for our vibrant and resourceful communities, strong network of community groups, voluntary sector organisations and volunteers who understand community needs and aspirations at a local level.
“Furthermore, our Councils and NHS, including our public health teams, are committed to working with a broad range of health, social care and community organisations to better shape services and support around people and communities.
“However, we know we can do more to build on and support community asset-based approaches to health. Undertaking this work is complex. It is not a quick fix; it requires resources and a shift in the way many public service organisations currently operate. But what is certain is that the opportunities and benefits are worth it.”
You can read Rachel’s annual report on the Council website. It also includes a section on recommendations from last year’s report, focusing on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a section on health statistics for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Press release published on November 29, 2022.