The Community Development Charter for Health, launched today by the NHS Alliance and the Health Empowerment Leverage Project (HELP), calls on national and local health bodies to use community development to improve health outcomes. Community development is a long term value-based process that enables people to work together to identify their own needs and aspirations, and take action to exert influence on the decisions which affect their lives.
The charter asks health organisations to commit to developing policies that would make community development part of the normal approach to improving the health of local populations. It also states that public services should be judged by the extent to which they help citizens, families and communities to achieve the health and social outcomes they desire.
Evidence suggests that investing in community development could provide a return on investment of 15:1; for example, for an investment of £233,655 in community development activity across four authorities the social return was approximately £3.5 million. 
Dr Brian Fisher, member of NHS Alliance executive, said: “If we are to address the current NHS crisis, it is essential that people are seen as the NHS’s most important asset. Involving people in their own health and wellbeing is more likely to create sustainable change, greatly improve health and social care outcomes, and save a considerable amount of money in the process. We now have good evidence that working alongside local people to improve health is much more effective than top down ‘prescription’, as communities become health sustaining.”
Debbie Abrahams, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, and member of the Shadow Health Team said; “From my previous work in public health I see community empowerment as a core component of any strategy to improve health and reduce health inequalities. Community development is a key mechanism to achieve this. Having control over one’s health – one’s life – is a psychological necessity. In addition with the increasing pressures on the NHS and social care, keeping everyone as healthy as long as possible is essential. As the World Health Organisation have long advocated, community development could actually help with this.”
Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of Turning Point said; “We know how important it is to involve communities in the design and delivery of health services. Turning Point fully supports the Charter for Community Development in Health, and I would strongly encourage other organisations to sign up to it. Co-production in health and social care should become the norm rather than the exception, we need to work together to make this a reality.”
Notes to editors
Read the full charter here.
Community development is: a long term value- based process which aims to address imbalances in power and bring about change founded on social justice, equality and inclusion[i]. The process enables people to organise and work together to:
o identify their own needs and aspirations
o take action to exert influence on the decisions which affect their lives
o improve the quality of their own lives, the communities in which they live, and societies of which they are a part.
NHS Alliance is the leading independent voice for providers of health and social care outside hospital. It is the only not-for-profit membership organisation to bring together frontline clinicians and organisations of all kinds in our communities – from general practice, community pharmacy to providers of housing and emergency services.
HELP was commissioned by the Department of Health to show how community development (CD) can be harnessed in the NHS. It introduced a cost-benefit model for calculating the health and other benefits of community development.
Turning Point is a leading social enterprise providing health and social care services for people with complex needs in 200 locations across England and Wales. For 50 years we have worked with those affected by drug and alcohol misuse, mental health conditions, offending behaviour, unemployment issues and people with a learning disability. For more information, please visit www.turning-point.co.uk.
For further information, please contact Rebecca Riffel:
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