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The Wealth of Health We Already Have

Away from the battle ground of health policy, faith communities are involved in improving well-being by just being themselves.

This last week I was part of a FaithAction team that headed up to sunny Dudley to do a workshop for H1.1Friendly Places. The journey gave us opportunity to catch up, share thoughts, deal with some pressing decisions and enjoy each other’s company. In fact, with the benefit of the sun shining, the whole trip served the team as a contributor to our own well-being. Whenever possible we try to operate in teams, it gives us the opportunity to reflect, to respond to all that’s being said in the room, and limits the amount of time on one’s own writing up internal reports. Plus, the more obvious thing is that we are wanting to promote faith community so it seems good that we operate as one.

One of the most satisfying points that I overheard from some of the participants came as they were reviewing the Friendly Places Pledge “we’re doing this already, we can sign this no problem”. ‘Success!’ I thought to myself, H2as this is what we wanted people to realise. So much of the normal every day, every week operation of faith communities is a positive contributor to health.

Aside from the hurly burly of political debate around health policy, faith groups would not consider themselves ‘health’ organisations, but are playing a significant part.

I am not by any means saying the average person should pick up a scalpel and start operating, or assume that a ‘have a go’ mentality is all that is needed to solve complex health and social care problems. What we need to do is to get passed some of the cacophony between doctors, politicians and managers and hear H3instead the steady footsteps of communities, families and volunteers who are already so vital to keeping society functioning. I was interested to hear that a survey of patients receiving psychological interventions, reported that it seemed that the activities and encounters around the service were more important than the intervention itself. The excuse to come out of the house, to wait in the waiting room; the incidental connections had a normalising effect, which felt more important to the patient than time spent with the health professional.

It would seem that we need to seek out these ‘incidentals’ accidental benefits, which may well be delivered by people that don’t know they are part of a process of recovery. Sometimes the system does these things by accident, sometimes it makes a sterile environment where non-health specialists are ruled out.  What Friendly Places intends to do is make faith communities and health & social care professionals aware of the positive support faith can play.

I am sure the debate will rage on regarding health, investment, cuts etc. I just hope that it does not detract from the growing numbers of people of faith who are doing little things to improve Well-Being. There is another narrative about health and well-being that is starting to emerge and it doesn’t always relate to financial imperatives.

Want to make your organisation a Friendly Place?

Visit our website and sign the pledge

See also FaithAction’s report on Faith and Public Health

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About Daniel Singleton

National Executive Director

Daniel Singleton has been the National Executive Director of FaithAction since 2007. In this role Daniel has become influential in a number of government departments, highlighting the significant part that faith-based organisations are playing in communities around the UK. Daniel also meets regularly with FaithAction member organisations to help them move forward and develop in their delivery.