Throughout my career, I have seen that leaps forward in technology and material prosperity haven’t benefited everyone in their daily lives. A growing frustration for many of us in health and social care has been that despite our best efforts we weren’t enabling communities to prevent or overcome issues such as social isolation, obesity and mental ill health in young people. Despite gains in living standards and the sophistication of health services, somehow gains in people’s wellbeing were not shining through.
Then, in 2017, while sat in an LGA workshop, I thought: ‘what about a Year of Wellbeing? How could that involve the whole community?’
When the idea of the Year of Wellbeing was pitched to the Place Forum in January 2018, all agencies recognised everyone has a part to play, and this buy in has been essential.
So just as place is an important factor in determining community-based action, we recognised the time was right for our Year of Wellbeing.
We have already begun radical transformation of services, and have a number of priorities agreed as part of our existing health and social care agenda. We didn’t want to duplicate or divert resources from any of that.
During the Year, we agreed to:
At the same time the Local Government Association launched its Upscaling Prevention programme and we became one of the pilot sites. Rather than focus on an individual topic, we wanted to try and make a ‘step change’ in our approach and embrace of wellbeing with a fully-engaged workforce and a fully-engaged population as described in the Wanless Report.
Coventry and Warwickshire Health and Wellbeing Boards had previously signed anHealth and Wellbeing Concordat. This set out principles for joint working across the system, our ambition to enable people to live happy healthy lives and that we would put people and communities at the heart of everything we do.
There was already a sense of excitement across the sub-region, as momentum built behind Coventry’s Bid to become UK City of Culture in 2021.
Euphoria that greeted the announcement in December 2017 that the Bid had been successful, was accompanied by determination to make the very most of opportunities this will bring to our sub-region.
Notable success building co-operation in arts, academia, business and grassroots sport in our area had shown that collaboration counts. So in 2018 NHS, local government, fire, police and voluntary sector organisations formed a powerful Place Forum to build on links forged through our two Health and Wellbeing Boards.
The next challenge was to cement these closer links. In particular, our local politicians recognised we needed to focus on creating lasting benefits for everyone in our communities, and that these would only be achieved if we look more broadly than just health and social care services.
We’ve made a start. We have a campaign calendar to ensure we prioritise our scarce resources. We will measure delivery against our plan, and will measure engagement however it occurs. We marked Time to Talk Day on 7 February with some vigour, and Walk to Work and Get Britain Moving Days in April. Partners are involved in workplace initiatives, building networks, reviewing engagement mechanisms and generally, making our Year of Wellbeing as visible as we can.
By the end of the Year we believe we will be even stronger than we were at the start, and will be expecting to measure that improvement. As I will see out the remainder of the Year of Wellbeing in active retirement, my colleague Liz Gaulton, Director of Public Health in Coventry, will let you know how we get on!
John Linnane, Director of Public Health in Warwickshire.