Public Health England guide to community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing

A new report from Public Health England urges decision makers in health to shift to more person and community centred ways of working in public health and healthcare.

A guide to community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing is the conclusion of the first stage of a project in England called ‘Working with communities – empowerment, evidence and learning’.  This project began in 2014 and aims to draw together and disseminate evidence and learning on community-centred approaches to health and wellbeing.  The project reflects a ‘whole-of-society’ approach which the report authors state has emerged in England.

A family of community-centred approaches to achieving health goals is identified within the report, including community development, asset based methods, community-based participatory research, co-production, time banking, participatory budgeting, social prescribing and healthy living centres.  These are all introduced in the guide, with the common factor being that they start with communities as building blocks for health. 

Furthermore, the authors recognise the importance of community capacity building to support disadvantaged communities to participate in these approaches, and also the important political element of using such methods – in that they can help communities to “challenge the status quo and campaign for more equitable distribution of resources, changes in services or policy”

As in Scotland, there is clearly a lot to do before such approaches become widespread, and the report states that: “Community-centred ways of working have often been poorly understood and located on the fringes of mainstream practice, which has largely been dominated by professionally-led solutions”.

To move forward, Public Health England provide a set of recommendations for decision makers, including planning how such methods can “become an essential part of local health plans” and to involve disadvantaged communities in addressing health inequalities.

This report from England comes at a useful time in Scotland, with the Public Health Review currently in progress.  CHEX has submitted a response to this consultation making some of the same points as the above report, and we would hope that those conducting the review take on board some of the report’s forward-thinking recommendations.

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