Time to shine a light

Oct 18, 2019

By Adam Chester, Project Officer, HACT

When you ask housing people about the impact they have on the health of their residents, the usual response is to highlight the role of supported housing. More than often, the role of community investment is hidden.

Now, with the NHS ten-year plan and its strategic focus on place-based population health, it’s time to shine a light on community investment. The role of housing as anchor institutions within communities is critical, and there are increasing opportunities for collaboration with health.

The 2019 Housing and Health Conference in Leeds highlighted the role of housing in place-based population health. The vibrant and stimulating agenda included a presentation from Gez Kallaghan, Community Regeneration Manager at Peabody. She talked about the organisation’s work on the Thamesmead estate in South London, where they have interfaced with various different healthcare providers, including GPs and A&E departments.

One of the workshops following her speech focused on the question, how can community investment be a part of housing’s role to health?

A potential area for collaboration is social prescribing. This service is based on the premise that when people experience certain health problems, a better solution other than medicine may be exercise, or to taking part in a community programme geared towards decreasing isolation.

And the evidence shows that it works.

Only 20% of health outcomes are derived through clinical inputs. The other 80% is down to a mix of health-related behaviours, socioeconomic factors and environmental factors. There is clearly a huge potential for housing to have more impact on people’s health outcomes through its community investment activities, by focusing on the social rather than the medical.

There are a number of benefits to this approach. Aside from avoiding medicating people where it is not needed, it often feeds into government health agendas, is cheaper for healthcare, strengthens local communities and promotes cross sector collaboration.

This was discussed by workshop partner Elemental, who provide the software with which professionals can assess people’s baseline levels of wellbeing and refer them on to the appropriate community programme.

What’s critical, as Andrew van Doorn, CEO at HACT, reminded us at the end of the workshop, is about how housing frames and describes its offer to health. He challenged delegates to think about how they could shape their offer so that it described how housing can help to solve the problems that are unique to health, rather than just offering a fully formed service and expecting health colleagues to sign up immediately.

In other words, it’s critical to tailor the service offer to meet the health sector’s needs.

Community investment professionals are already contributing to the health and wellbeing of their residents and local people. It’s time now to shine a light on those services, on the impact they’re having, and of formalising the links with our colleagues in the health sector.

If we work together on this, imagine the impact we can have on people’s health and wellbeing.

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