What are the best means of coordinating social, economic and physical regeneration?
Much good work is being done in communities - but we have probably more barriers that any generation in dealing with what are big issues as local citizens. It is required for people to be able to get help, support, encouragement and a shoulder to guide them. I praise one of the best actions taken to help citizens to become active – where their mental and physical wellbeing become improved at the same time as their spiritual wellbeing. It is called Health Trainers.
The only problem is the speed this has taken to begin to be implemented and here I would liken anything that is proposed in the Communities Empowerment White Paper needs to address the question of how long implementation takes – the slower that happens obviously the slower people living in communities feel improvements. Be bold and make things happen fast and fruitfully.
Please let me explain why a link between improving wellbeing or mental health and supporting citizens to become active is necessary. The answer is most clearly embedded into the Department of Health statement on 20th July 2005 – and it is clearly the legally responsible bodies need to protect themselves by ensuring all those giving out advice have the necessary accreditation, otherwise in our current blame culture there could be sad consequences for government. The answer is to work with the accreditation bodies and trainer professionals to get a wide selection of accreditation routes open to meet all the individual learning needs.
It is surely as important to take the developing Health Trainers and respect their growing skills, These can become a central feature in communities of coordinating social, economic and physical regeneration – where we put the person first and no longer just look at the bricks and mortar solutions. Government has come up with a great solution by going forward with the Health Trainer programme, it needs to be accredited in every community to ensure people get the best and fastest access to improved mental health and wellbeing while at the same time realising that they can take part in the decisions that affect their lives.
Putting good connecting and guidance ideas into communities – ones we can respect, are robust and well thought out enable the best kind of co-ordination but it has to be based on encouraging as many citizens as possible to understand why and how we can be more and better participative to help deprived areas and those in need.
The following was the Ministerial Statement that has inspired my confidence that more can be done:-
“WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT - DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
Wednesday 20 July 2005 - The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health: Written Ministerial Statement on Health Trainers
In the White Paper “Choosing Health” we announced the introduction of health trainers, a new type of personal health support in the public health workforce. From 2006 NHS accredited health trainers will be giving support to people who want it in areas of highest need. Many people have difficulty in changing to a healthier way of life. There is a great deal of advice and information available and exhortations to change often from distant national bodies and others, but equally often with little recognition of the realities of everyday life. There is support but it is patchy, fragmented and does not fit with their lives. It may be available at the wrong time of day or only accessible to people who speak and read English well, and access is unequal and erratic. Health trainers are designed to address these problems. Heath trainers will be visible and accessible to local people through living and working in the communities they serve providing “support from next door”. They will engage local people where they are to be found, for example, mothers at the children’s centre, customers at the local pharmacy, members of the tenants’ association. Their task is to motivate individuals to set personal goals for improving their health, by developing personal health plans using a core set of skills based on health psychology and a good understanding of what works. They will support people to carry out their plans, eg, accompanying a woman to a screening appointment; encouraging a teenage mother to go to the children’s centre by arranging to meet her; planning a walking route with a fifty year old man. They will identify barriers with individuals to healthier choices and help find individual solutions by listening, empathising and sharing experiences. They will be able to ‘signpost’ people to local services that can support their healthier choices, through their detailed knowledge of the local area. Health trainers may refer individuals on, but will also encourage, motivate and support them to use what is available, eg information about the local smoking cessation service, and then go with them to the first session”.
This is a good start – worth all communities knowing about to help keep moving forward.