The Centre ran its Spring Forum online event on Tuesday 11th May – Radical approaches to community health in a post-COVID world. Over 140 people logged in to enjoy interesting talks and passionate conversations around the future of community health and the importance of the arts in recovery

Event Chair: Dr Catherine-Rose Stocks-Rankin, Co-Author, Unleashing Healthy Communities.

The following talks can been seen in the recording of the event:

Learning from COVID-19 – Science, health inequalities and community health
Professor Ajit Lalvani – Chair of Infectious Diseases, Imperial College London
Chair, Bromley by Bow Centre. Video section starts at at 7:18

Professor Lalvani talked in detail about how COVID  has further exposed and highlighted health inequalities in a number of ways and that have become more severe due to the impact of the pandemic.

He summarised the key role of science and the pace of research that is working towards the route out of the pandemic, together with the NHS, which ensures equitable distribution of the COVID vaccine. However, Professor Lalvani said that real change will happen on the ground in communities, with integrated health organisations like the Bromley by Bow Centre playing a crucial part.

The changing face of primary care
Dr Saul Marmot – GP Partner, Bromley by Bow Health Partnership
Dr Julia Davis – GP Partner, Bromley by Bow Health Partnership, Honorary Director, Bromley by Bow Centre. Video section starts at 25:50

Dr Saul Marmot shared the learning, innovation, the benefit of strong partnerships and the best practice that proliferated during the pandemic. The GP Partners talked about the supportive and flexible way the Bromley by Bow Health partnership practices are now working.

Attendees heard how growing ill health from the pandemic is unequally affecting certain populations and how virtual consultations for patients have exacerbated the extent of the ‘digital divide’. There is an urgent need to act now to help ensure equitable access to healthcare for all.

As Dr Julia Davis shared in detail how the whole Centre is working in integrated ways, supporting people to take back control of health and wellbeing in their local neighbourhoods and communities.

Communities leading change – shifting the power balance
Emma Owen-Amadasun – Assistant Director (Population Health)
Layla Shirreh – Social Prescribing Manager
Jess Walker – Communities Driving Change Project Manager. Video section starts at 48:55

The integrated health team told how local knowledge and trust from being long embedded in the community was crucial to the Centre’s COVID response. The Centre’s integrated approach meant conditions already existed to quickly adapt to meet the needs of the community in a crisis. This included information sharing, strong trust, joint decision-making, reliable partnerships and appropriate governance already in place.

Attendees heard about how resources were galvanised quickly for the formation of Rapid Social Prescribing outreach services that were a lifeline for so many.

The Centre’s Communities Driving Change community project mobilised for outreach and found that around 80% of people engaged weren’t known to the Centre and had no other access to support. Many virtual groups and creative activities began to flourish, connecting people during a difficult time.

ENO Breathe and the role of the arts in community recovery
Jenny Mollica – Director of Baylis, English National Opera. Video section starts at 1:15:00

Jenny emphasised the role of the arts in health and recovery and the about the strong partnership ENO has with the Centre.

She covered ENO Breathe, a programme developed in collaboration between artists and scientists that focuses on how singing can support people recovering from coronavirus.

Learning to breathe correctly helps people cope with stress and panic and gives them control.  Working together gives them connection and helps them feel less isolated with their symptoms. Jenny also stressed that singing is the voice of the community, as many of ENO collaborations in Bromley by Bow attest.

Next steps in radical health
Rob Trimble – Chief Executive, Bromley by Bow Centre. Video section 1:33:40

Rob summarised the pride and the difficulties in achieving what the Centre has achieved. He stressed the life-saving work and crisis response the Centre and many other community organisations offer, how need has increased during the pandemic and yet funding streams are disparate and very few have any longevity. The Centre has no flexible anchor funding.

Rob stated that the community sector is the most creative and innovative part of public service, connected to real people and real communities and offers radical approaches to health. Core funding would unleash enormous value and benefit through a multiplying effect and create a more optimistic future for community health across the country.