The NHS Five Year Forward View is clear. We need to get serious about early intervention and prevention
if we are to reduce the widening gap of health inequalities, manage the rising pressures created by demand at an acute level and fund new treatments.
It seems to us at Wellbeing Enterprises that we need to create a different future for healthcare services. To do this, we need to drastically rethink the way we approach the strategy to improve people’s health. Sir Michael Marmot in his new book “The Health Gap” discusses the difference between health and healthcare services and the need to support people to take control of their own lives. The difference he says between health and healthcare is that health is a broader concept which involves us thinking about the social determinants of health; for instance, the adversity people may be suffering on a day to day basis, debt, housing problems, poverty, worklessness and isolation. Healthcare services, Sir Michael goes onto explain is about the clinical aspect of health where people are treated for medical conditions. WE see Sir Michael’s work as providing a framework for what we do to reduce inequalities. WE know from over 5,000 patients we have worked with, that the planning and commissioning of health services needs to focus not only on a clinical and medical approach, but on an understanding of the social context of peoples lives. Often medical and clinical intervention arrives too late because people have already developed serious medical problems which could have been dealt with much earlier and more effectively. Also there is a hidden population who do not access services until their conditions are untreatable or much more severe and sadly the condition could have been easily treated or even avoidable. The social factors affecting peoples lives impact peoples health, and also peoples desire and motivation to take control of their health.
If we can support people to access services to reduce some of their social problems and also influence a change in the systems and community in which they live, we give people the opportunity to take control and the motivation to improve their own health and wellbeing.
WE are fastidious about measuring the impact of what we do and we have found through validated scales and independent research that people often start with a small step and they continue to get better over time with significant improvements to their health and wellbeing and their desire to interact with their local community. After continued support, they are often able to support themselves and then often then go on to support others. Examples of this include people we have worked with who have chronic long term conditions or mental health issues and once they start on that journey of self discovery, and receive support to combat some of the social issues , they then gain the motivation to try new things and wellbeing just keeps improving as time goes on!
The social entrepreneurs and volunteers we have worked with are shining examples of how people, who have often got in touch with us becasue they feel depressed or have severe social challenges in their lives, can overcome adversity, and go on to create assets in their communities, which in turn support others who feel alienated. Billy one of the social entrepreneurs who received funding and support from us to set up a veteran’s model airkit club said
“The biggest benefit is building networks for veterans who can experience huge isolation from Armed Services to civilian life. We can also identify by association with them their needs as an individual and can understand what they are going through, and assist them going” forward to other services that they may need or require”
WE not only believe in a social model of health as being part of the answer to rising pressures in healthcare services but we also firmly believe in people as assets. We know from experience that if we use our local place based and community assets as well as the strengths and potential of individuals and work together, we are far more likely to be able to solve the increasing problems we are currently experiencing in health and social care services. Too frequently we see statutory organisations in the driving seat, setting priorities and addressing needs, whereas what we would like to see is a shift and about-turn so that people and communities are in the driving seat and they are setting the priorities, addressing local need and taking control.
Through having the honour of working with valued individuals and communities, we have seen phenomenal changes not only for the individuals we work with but also significant changes for whole communities. Through our work, we see happier healthier people and stronger more resilient resourceful communities and we believe this is as a result of embedding wellbeing at the heart of any work we do with people, partners and communities.