FaithAction’s Health Team on the Road!
Earlier this month, Felicity and I were at the NHS Expo in Manchester. The Expo is a conference and exhibition for anyone involved in NHS services, from health professionals, local government and industry to the patients themselves, and of course, the voluntary sector. The Department of Health Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership, of which FaithAction is a member, was behind a number of the conference seminars at the ‘pop-up university’, and these were a great way of spreading the message that voluntary sector groups, including faith-based groups, can reach communities that statutory services cannot, as well as offer innovative ways of improving the nation’s health.
Manchester GPs discussing access for patients who don’t speak English @CE_AllianceUK @FaithActionnet #Expo15NHS pic.twitter.com/OI68S4IXYW
— Rodie Garland (@RodieAkerman) September 3, 2015
What’s more, last week we attended the annual Public Health England (PHE) conference. It’s my kind of event – more professors in one room than you can shake a stick at, and lots of interesting seminars all focused on how we can improve the public’s health and well-being. We were excited to be able to present a poster summarising our own work on The Impact of Faith-Based Organisations on Public Health and Social Capital.
If you’re attending the @PHE_uk conference make sure you check out poster 49 @FaithActionnet #phe2015 pic.twitter.com/DBsU4rFQT8 — Felicity Smith (@felicityjsmith) September 14, 2015
There’s a focus at PHE on tackling the inequalities in health that some groups of people face just because of the circumstances they are born into. Did you know that people who are the worst-off economically now enjoy the same life expectancy that their well-off counterparts had 20 years ago? That’s a huge gap, but it’s just the kind of issue that faith-based groups are so good at addressing.
PHE is an organisation that is all about collecting and using data and evidence so that we can learn what works to improve health. That might sound a bit dry, but when you invest in gathering these things together, you will have the facts at your fingertips that can win people – and funders – to your cause. If you can find a memorable ‘nugget’ that stays in people’s minds, you might change the way they think about something.
One of the most powerful things I heard at the conference was that, in terms of improving people’s mental health, the effect of introducing the minimum wage was similar to the effect of taking antidepressants on depression. No-one would know about this if someone hadn’t been measuring it. What’s more, the potential effect on mental health was perhaps not one of the most obvious impacts to think about when the minimum wage was first brought in. But now that this link is known, it is something that can feed into shaping future policy.
Changes in #mentalhealth from #minimumwage is comparable to effect size of antidepressants on depression #PHE2015 pic.twitter.com/Tourq6Ogfj
— Rodie Garland (@RodieAkerman) September 15, 2015
So thinking about the impacts on health of any social action work we do can be really important – even if the link isn’t obvious at first. With this in mind, we’re currently writing some guidance for faith-based organisations on how to go about evaluating their work. We’re also holding events in Birmingham (21st October) and Manchester (4th November) to look at local health needs and how faith-based organisations can make a difference. If you’re interested, book your place now – and if you have experiences to share, please get in touch with me at [email protected].