Community Network Helps People ‘Improve Their Own Health’

A new network giving Leeds people the power and skills to improve their own health is being launched. Community organisations all across Leeds will sign up to the Community Health Development Network, allowing them to share their expertise and best practice on improving people’s health.

The network will provide an opportunity for community development workers to meet and support each other as well as keep informed about important local and national policies and plans.

Community organisations can have a substantial impact on the health of Leeds’ citizens, particularly those from ethnic-minority communities and those living in deprived communities, by working with them to help them support changes and tackle issues that prevent them from being healthy.

Touchstone is one community organisation which has been an active member in the development of the network. Working with black and ethnic-minority groups across Leeds, the group uses creative initiatives and projects to improve the physical and mental well-being of its members. One example of this is Touchstone’s drama group for carers, which uses drama as an opportunity to improve the mental health of carers from ethnic minority communities.

Other community organisations also involved in the planning of the network include Hamara, and the West Leeds Healthy Living Network. Health partnership manager Rachel Swindells, who has been developing the network, said: “A community health development approach is essential to reducing health and social inequalities within the city.

“It forms a key priority of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Plan, and has a vital role in delivering the Vision for Leeds aim of narrowing the gap between the most disadvantaged people and communities and the rest of the city.”

Alongside the development of the network, a number of Leeds’ councillors have visited community health organisations around the city as part of a Scrutiny Action Learning Project, which has been facilitated by Leeds Metropolitan University. They have had the opportunity to meet local residents who are benefiting from these organisations.

This has helped give the council a clearer understanding of community health development and has raised awareness of the value of this approach in terms of reducing health inequalities and promoting healthier lifestyles across Leeds.

Mary Green from Leeds Metropolitan University added: “Community organisations across Leeds are having a positive impact on the health of our residents. Through action learning, there has been a unique opportunity to look at the influence of community development in reducing inequalities in health.

“This network will allow these organisations to celebrate their achievements, but also to learn from each other and continue to develop, which means they will be able to have an even bigger impact on the health of the people of Leeds.”