lisa weaks

Guardian article: Community health is crucial

Related tags: Partnerships

The King’s Fund is a charity focused on improving healthcare in the UK. In partnership with GSK, The King’s Fund manages the annual GSK IMPACT Awards where winners are recognised and rewarded for improving community health. Lisa Weaks, Third Sector Programme Manager at The King’s Fund explains the importance of celebrating the vital contributions community-based organisations are making towards solving complex health problems.

In today’s world where people are living longer and the prevalence of chronic conditions is increasing, public services face many challenges, not least significant financial pressure and the need for efficiency savings. However, community-based organisations can have a key role to play when it comes to addressing ingrained, and costly health challenges.

Organisations that are close to their communities can respond in a targeted way.

Their understanding of local client groups enables them to identify pockets of unmet need and find innovative solutions, while engaging and galvanising local communities and helping to co-ordinate services across a range of organisations.

For example, in a region within Shropshire, where the local population has twice the national average of people over 65, the GSK IMPACT Awards has supported an organisation called Mayfair Community Centre (http://www.mayfaircentre.org.uk). The Centre pairs vulnerable people with one of its 270 volunteers who help them cope with daily living. The resulting cost efficiencies to the healthcare system speak volumes. Those supported by volunteers show a 30% reduction in the need for home visits by NHS staff, a 55% reduction in the use of out-of–hours GP services, and a 71% reduction in emergency hospital admissions. 

In contrast, in Brighton the GSK Impact Awards has supported RISE (http://www.riseuk.org.uk), an organisation that works with the ambulance service to identify victims of domestic violence. Research suggests that two women per week are killed on average in the UK by a male partner, and that the estimated annual cost to the NHS of treating physical injuries sustained from domestic violence is £1.2 billion. RISE trains local ambulance staff to recognise new cases of abuse, improve rates of onward referral and break the cycle of abuse, providing an innovative intervention with the potential for enormous social and financial benefits. 

These examples illustrate how community-based organisations can benefit the wider healthcare system and the people they serve. We must not lose sight of the vital contribution that these charities make. With support from programmes like the GSK IMPACT Awards, we can continue to recognise charities in this sector, give them a voice and help them thrive. 

This feature first appeared on The Guardian as part of a series exploring global health challenges.