5, not 3, is the magic number

Author: Tom Robinson

This thought-provoking blog has been written by Richard Boggie, VONNE’s new North East and North Cumbria VCSE Health Partnerships Strategic Manager.  He reflects on the discussions at the recent North East and North Cumbria Health Champions event in Durham.

Of course, I should not have been surprised. Everything seems to be coming in 5s these days – the PM’s priorities, Labour’s 5 missions. And it turned out to be the number of the day at the NENC Health Champions sharing event in Durham this week. More of this in a moment. First, what was I wanting to learn from the speakers and fellow participants?

Well, since joining the VONNE health and wellbeing team last month, I’ve heard lots and lots of stuff about community assets, connectors, champions and so on. It all sounds great, but today was about getting to hear from some of the people directly involved in delivering this work on the ground. I don’t doubt that these schemes are a vital approach in tackling health inequalities in our region, but I wanted to hear about some of the ways it is working well, what’s worth building on, what are the blockages?

First, we were reminded of an important 5. The ‘Core20plus5’. The ‘5’ being the five clinical priorities that the NHS wants all Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to focus on. These are the priorities that will have the biggest impact on reducing health inequalities across  the 20% of our population facing the highest levels of deprivation.

I joined Tom, a public health trainer, to hear about his work delivering a new programme called Connect…yep, you’ve guessed it…Connect 5. This scheme helps build confidence among people to have conversations about mental health – conversations with peers, with family and friends, or even with themselves. In this case, the ‘5’ refers to the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, which is at the heart of the training. By exploring scenarios in an interactive way, Tom helps people in different communities to build awareness, skills and confidence to get involved and offer support.

This was just one of the many examples of the great work taking place to help volunteers to be champions in their communities, to bust myths and get across the vital messages that will help tackle the terrible inequality currently experienced by people in our region.

So, what did I learn? I feel duty bound to offer five  reflections:

  1. This community based approach is absolutely vital. Without it we risk making inequality worse. So, we have to invest in it and deliver better health outcomes.
  2. Funding, as ever, is an issue. Short term funding makes it really hard to plan for longer term action and sustainable schemes.
  3. We need to get the balance right between regional priorities and local needs. The voluntary sector is great at working in neighbourhoods, being flexible and responsive to local issues.
  4. There’s plenty of activity, but we need to work hard on consistency across the patch – who are we missing? Who is falling between the cracks?
  5. Progress is made through relationships and trust, which is the very essence of health champion work.

Okay, that’s enough reflecting. I need to take five.

Learn more about the event in Durham and the Health Champions programme here.