Does community empowerment have the potential to improve health in disadvantaged areas?
PHE ePoster Library. Halliday E. 09/12/17; 186626; 177
Emma Halliday
Emma Halliday
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Abstract IntroductionPublic health strategies emphasise the importance of community empowerment for tackling health inequalities. However, many evaluations of initiatives stop short of assessing health outcomes. We report findings from an evaluation of Big Local, a place-based initiative being rolled out in 150 relatively disadvantaged neighbourhoods across England. In each community, local residents have control over how £1 million is spent to make their areas better places to live. MethodLongitudinal fieldwork was conducted over three years in fifteen communities. Data collection included: contextual mapping and participatory group exercises, (repeated) interviews and informal conversations with key informants and non-participant observation of meetings and community events. A longitudinal survey assessing health and wellbeing outcomes was conducted with a sample of 65 active residents in these areas. ResultsResidents in some areas aspired to directly improve community health through actions identified in their Big Local plan. Elsewhere, health impacts were emergent. Early findings suggest an improvement in wellbeing among some residents directly involved in the initiative while others experienced an increase in psychological stress. Residents reported changes in their local area that they believe will bring about long term improvements in population health. Pathways to health improvements involved changes in social cohesion, area reputation/stigma, physical environments and community spaces. ConclusionThis study offers early evidence about the health impacts of empowerment. It supports learning for professionals in NHS and local government organisations about the types of environments and support that enable communities to work together to shape the decisions that affect their lives.
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