Communities First is a Welsh Government programme targeting Wales’ highest areas of deprivation. It aims to support communities across three themes – learning, health and prosperity. Its aim is to reduce inequalities in Wales experienced by individuals living in these communities by providing increased opportunities to access learning, improve health and maintain a living income.
One ECLP (East Cardiff, Llanedeyrn and Pentwyn) Communities First project has created a team of ‘Health Champions’ and aims to build closer connections between health services and communities so as to achieve better health outcomes. When people have a greater awareness of where they can seek help, for example with stopping smoking or their mental health, it allows them to feel enabled and part of the solution. We began the “Health Champions” project to both work with active community members who have an interest in health issues, and to train them to ensure the information they provide to the wider community is reliable and consistent. This approach means that local people get key messages and helpful advice from those they trust and avoids any barriers that may exist to accessing traditional health services.
Following identification of the interests and needs of the group we have put together a training package focusing on the issues that matter most in their area. Over a period of six weeks, a range of providers including Public Health Wales, Stop Smoking Wales, Screening Services and Cardiff MIND (a mental health charity) presented key information on healthy lifestyles and choices to the group. The training package helped the group to gain a broader understanding of health issues and how to support and signpost people who need help, but it also gave them an opportunity to consider what more they wanted to do in the role. Since the training began in spring 2014, it has led to the Health Champions being involved in the following:
. Organising community events with our support
. Supporting our range of activities through volunteering
. Making a short presentation on health messages at Wales’ Patient Information Forum conference
. Some accredited training in a health-related subject
. Becoming qualified tutors for our nutrition projects
More information on ECLP Communities First can be found at eclp.org.uk/voices. If you would like to find out more about this project in particular, please contact Helen Green, 07969 185037 or Helen.G@c3sc.org.uk.