Back in March I blogged about how community and placed-based approaches to health and wellbeing underpin all of our work at PHE, from tackling obesity to ensuring every child has the best start in life.
The potential for these approaches continues to be a concept we see as one of the big ‘game-changers’– a unique opportunity for positive change and much faster progress on our public health priorities.
In my blog I flagged new NICE guidance on community engagement – an important resource - and it’s also worth noting another important document; the final report of the Commission on Place Based Health, welcomed in a separate blog by PHE’s Duncan Selbie.
With the importance of this agenda in mind I was really pleased to see the wide range of opportunities to keep this conversation going at our annual conference next week (13-14 Sept).
As public health professionals we have to keep exploring what it means to implement community-centred approaches at scale, understand what changes occur in professional practice and listen to what works.
In line with a partnership approach that values the contributions of the community and voluntary sector to public health, we are kicking off with a pre-conference workshop on ‘whole system, community-led approaches for better health and wellbeing’.
We’ve asked two community organisations - Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network and Kingfisher Treasure Seekers from Gloucestershire – to share their stories and help open up a debate on how we can work effectively within social networks and tap into the knowledge, skills and resources residing in local communities.
As always, the conference will provide a platform for disseminating current evidence through the range of presentations and posters.
Highlights will include Professor Jennie Popay from Lancaster University talking about what the latest scientific evidence says about community engagement and also introducing the Communities in Control study – an evaluation of the Big Local initiative.
Delegates will also hear about how an evidence base on community wellbeing is being built through the new What Works Wellbeing centre.
Finding new ideas and celebrating good practice is equally important and at the Engaging Communities session we’re delighted that Sarah Cowling, from HealthWORKS in Newcastle will be talking about how they have developed a successful community hub model to provide a range of local public health services.
In her presentation, she will raise some of the challenges about navigating the world of commissioning and remaining grounded in community life.
Taking a future focus, the topic of community empowerment will also be considered in a keynote presentation in the ‘Emerging issues in public health’ track.
Dr Glenn Laverack, an internationally renowned expert on health promotion who has recently worked with the World Health Organization on the theme of Social Mobilisation, will be looking at ‘Health activism and empowerment’.
He will put forward his ideas on how to build a fast-tracked, evidence-based approach to community empowerment in the UK.
So I look forward to working with colleagues to keep pushing this vital agenda forward over the coming months and hope whether you are at our conference or not, you have the chance to join the debate.
How can you influence the way community-centred approaches underpin effective local public health action and help us reduce the health gap?