An overarching strategic framework designed to help improve the health and well-being of the 28,000 people living in the Waterside will be officially launched today, Wednesday, July 1.
The report - commissioned by the Caw/Nelson Drive Action group on behalf of the Waterside Health Forum and carried out by Education Matters - is the result of extensive community consultation and outlines a series of health priorities for an area that has through division, segregation and poor community infrastructure traditionally struggled to give cohesive voice to grassroots health demands in a relatively small geographical area.
Authors Finola Hunt and Julia Humphries point out how social deprivation, poor educational attainment levels and poor mortality and morbidity rates are higher than the Londonderry and Northern Ireland average in many parts of the Waterside.
That “the incidence of people with long term health conditions is higher in many wards in the Waterside when compared to both Derry LGD (22.39) and Northern Ireland (19.99). In particular, in Caw (27.18), Ebrington (28.92) and Lisnagelvin (27.51)” and that “with the exception of Hollymount and Kilfennan, economic activity is lower in all other wards on the Waterside (including Waterside Neighbourhood Renewal Area) than the average percentage rating for Northern Ireland” are amongst their findings.
They found that the main health and well-being issues that people in the Waterside identified were alcohol and drug misuse, smoking, mental health issues, managing weight and healthy eating.
And following consultations, focus groups, surveys and desk-based research four priorities have been identified.
They include: leading on health and wellbeing in the Waterside; developing healthy lifestyle campaigns for the 28,000 residents of the inner Eastbank; improving mental health and well-being; and reducing harm from drugs and smoking.
Key actions throughout the life of the three year framework will include the establishment of an integrated Waterside Health Forum, the development of a ‘Waterside Together for Health’ website virtual hub and the establishment of a Waterside Health Forum Community Health Champions programme.
The authors conclude: “Although there is a strong wish to develop a concerted approach to tackling health inequalities within the Waterside Health Forum, potential is limited by resourcing, capacity and the lack of power to influence.
“Therefore this framework forms the basis of a Community Plan for health actions across the Waterside.
“This Health Framework reflects the essence of community planning, drawing together a segmented community with key statutory and voluntary agencies to working to build capacity.
“There is an ideal opportunity for local community leaders, elected community representatives, statutory health providers and others to invest in the projects outlined in this report making a real commitment to action.
“Ultimately this framework offers an ideal opportunity to deliver solutions, share information on issues across the community and sectors and ensure that local people continue to have a say in health matters which affect their lives.”
Alison Wallace, Strategy Manager, said: “We are grateful to the Public Health Agency for providing funding for this piece of research. Those of us who work in the Waterside have been lobbying agencies for many years on the needs and under investment in health services and interventions delivered in local communities. There are many interrelated factors which impact on health in general.
“This research seeks to understand and address those which negatively impact on people who live in the Waterside and by developing a strategic framework, drawn from understanding these elements, attempts to reduce inequalities and improve health and wellbeing. We will use this framework to develop a health action plan, lever in funding and better utilise resources in health that are currently out there.”