Inform — Influence — Impact


It was great to be asked to chair the making communities healthier workshops at the NALC annual conference, with a strong focus on loneliness; during the sessions I had a strong sense that whilst loneliness is on-trend, the most important message to take away was the impact we can all have where we live and work.

The workshop provided an opportunity to inform delegates about a new guide, jointly published by NALC and the LGA, titled Reaching Out; the aim being to help the principal and local councils tackle loneliness.

One of the speakers quite rightly questioned the word ‘tackle’; there is too much stigma around loneliness and the trigger to seek people can happen at any time and any moment in our lives; equally, it can have a detrimental impact on our health and well-being.

Professor Paul Johnstone, Public Health England Regional Director outlined a national strategy and the role and remit of PHE; he shared stark statistics around the health impacts of loneliness:

  • lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia
  • loneliness is comparable to the impact of smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • lonely people have an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease

Professor Paul Johnstone went on to explain why people experience loneliness at different points in their lives and spoke of the need for data and resource intelligence, relevant to our health at the different stages of life.

Whilst speaking on national strategy, Professor Paul Johnstone referenced the importance of local communities and raised awareness of wider public health intervention campaigns such as Making Every Contact Count.

Local (parish and town) councils have an important role to play, irrespective of size and scale, by signposting and connecting with local GP’s on social prescribing and healthy living pharmacies.

Danielle Frost, Essex Association of Local Councils provided a valuable insight into the role of Health and Wellbeing Boards and the opportunity for county association to get involved and lead at a local level through:

  • health and wellbeing boards for local councils
  • training
  • promoting national and area campaigns
  • showcasing local parish initiatives.

This is where we can have the greatest influence and impact; at the local level, in the very heart of our communities. Think about your daily routine, who do you see each day; who are your neighbours. Just a simple hello and a smile can make all the difference to someone’s day – someone’s life.

Sally Longmate, chief executive officer, Suffolk of Local Councils and Ann Osborn, director of the Rural Coffee Caravan, then shared about opportunities in local communities for people to come together.

The Rural Coffee Caravan delivers information and friendship across Suffolk and has linked up with MeetUpMondays™ which gives hospitality businesses the opportunity to open up their facilities as a place of welcome, whether a pub, café or hotel lounge.

By the end of the workshop, we were all informed and influenced; now to delivering impact and making a difference in the communities where we live.

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