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What can faith bring to health?

What is it that faith communities and faith-based organisations provide that helps to support health and wellbeing? This is a question we often grapple with at FaithAction. It’s something our work with the Health and Wellbeing Alliance helps us to explore, and it’s something we looked at in detail in our review, The Impact of Faith-Based Organisations on Public Health and Social Capital.

From this review, we concluded that the really valuable things that faith provides are those things that you can’t pay professionals to ‘deliver’. Friendship, community, belonging, hope: these things don’t replace the statutory or professional services we still need at times, but they are vital components of life. Like expanding foam, they fill the spaces between statutory services and help prevent people from falling through the gaps. Our latest report, What is Community? (coming soon!), has lots of examples of how this works in practice.

While the characteristics shown in the diagram above are not unique to faith organisations, these are the things that faith organisations tend to have in common when they are working well. And when they work well with those professional services, it’s easy to see how the results for health can be magnified.

We are hearing of some great examples – just this week, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care met with faith groups to develop a Memorandum of Understanding that will help them work better together. Have a look at the conversation on Twitter using #GMfaithandhealth.

Then there’s the Guide to Healthy Living: Mosques that was produced by Public Health England, Birmingham City Council and local social enterprise KIKIT, and contains health information alongside examples of how mosques are putting health advice into practice, relevant verses from the Qur’an and an audit tool to help mosques support the health of their communities.

We know that up and down the country, faith-based organisations are succeeding in being commissioned to deliver health and wellbeing services, in recognition of the value they are able to provide.

We are always keen to find more examples, so that we can help further develop connections between faith groups and health and government bodies, and so help to make things better for communities across the UK. Get in touch if you can tell us more.