Empowering community members for better health, a report from BBBC Insights

The Health Champion programme has been running at St Paul’s Way Medical Centre in the east of Tower Hamlets for 3.5 years, delivered by the Bromley by Bow Centre and funded by the Morgan Stanley Trust. The programme is designed to engage local residents in their health and to develop skills, knowledge and confidence to improve their own health and the health of their local community.

Its ultimate aim is to create ‘ripples of health in the community’ through supporting residents to share health knowledge with others. The programme involves a six week, accredited training course to enhance participants’ knowledge and awareness of healthy lifestyles and community services, followed by opportunities to take part in volunteering activities after the training course.

The Bromley By Bow Centre’s Insights team has published a report on the evaluation of the Health Champion programme. This allows for the Centre to share what has been learnt during the project but also reflect on its own processes.

In 2019, four cohorts of Health Champions undertook a six week course, two days a week, covering ideas about behaviour change, health inequalities, health promotion, the social determinants of health and communication skills, interspersed with practical, healthy and local activities. 23 Health Champions then gained a Level 2 qualification in Understanding Health Improvement.

A member of the community who took part in the programme said:

“I face family problems to come out of the house – childcare, negotiating with my husband and family. The course gives me confidence. I can see the effect of inhabiting a different kind of life here, it’s a circular effect – I am part of something, stronger, so I can say [this family matter] isn’t my problem today; my life is important as well. It’s what we deserve, being a friend to ourselves.”

The findings are detailed in the Evaluation Summary which is available to download at bbbc.org.uk/insights. There was good evidence of a much wider impact for Health Champions in this area than solely increased confidence; many articulated a sense of developed identity and new aspirations. As well as increased confidence, Health Champions articulated a sense of developed identity and new aspirations. The idea of ‘helping yourself in order to help others’ also ran through the course. This built from a desire by Health Champions to make healthy choices, but also to share their learning with friends, family and their local community. Health Champions challenged and changed their own habits: there is evidence of 56 lifestyle changes within the cohorts, particularly addressing diet and physical activity.

They also spoke up and supported others:

“I’ve taken part in a few coffee mornings [such as with the ESOL class].We end up sharing anything and everything – our experience and our history, we tell our story. The thing is, I’m just like them. So I can tell them what I’ve learnt and how you can use it, practical things.”

The Insights team also runs bespoke Knowledge Share events and visits – do not hesitate to get in touch with us to learn more about this at insights@bbbc.org.uk