‘Our communities know that the church is here, not because we’re paid to do a job, but because we care’ - Professor Bola Owolabi
On 27th July, we had the privilege of facilitating a workshop with Professor Bola Owolabi, NHS England Director for Health Inequalities, along with many of our partners who run church-led initiatives to support community health and wellbeing. The workshop helped us build a clearer picture of what effective partnership between the NHS and churches looks like and gave us plenty of ideas of how to build on the excellent work already happening around the country.
You can view the workshop recording here.
Following presentations from Dr Ross Bryson, Faith Kenny, and Mike Farley on GP chaplaincy, social prescribing in church-led community spaces, and crisis prevention respectively, we heard from Professor Bola on the current NHS strategy for tackling health inequalities and the role the Church can play in this. Professor Bola highlighted five key areas of action that the Church can take:
- Advocacy - the Church can speak up for the vulnerable in conversation with health care providers
- Anchors - the Church can provide a consistent and trusted presence in a community
- Connections - the Church can play a significant role in connecting people with themselves, the community and their purpose
- Justice - the Church can help to tackle health inequalities and barriers to accessing healthcare
- Alignment - the Church can work alongside the NHS in a complementary way
We can take these actions at all levels of health provision - from our local trusts and Primary Care Networks, through to Integrated Care Boards, and national policy. Throughout the conversation, the contributors continually returned to the unique contribution of the Church. We embody ‘shalom’ values and are experts on community and relationship. We can be confident in being able to offer the NHS this expertise, an understanding of our local community, and the means to build relationships with those who are disconnected. Confidence in expressing our authentic identity and values helps to build trust with our community and maintain our distinctiveness as a church while also effectively complementing statutory provision.
What the Church has to offer is significant and immensely valuable to the wellbeing of our society. As Professor Bola noted: ‘Our communities know that the church is here, not because we’re paid to do a job, but because we care’. There are many excellent community projects which could effectively be upscaled and replicated across the country through building on the resources that we already have available such as knit and natter groups, community cafes and children’s clubs.
As ChurchWorks, we are looking to build on the workshop’s success through developing events, resources, and communities of practice. These will focus on sharing effective models of partnership between church-based initiatives and the health service so that they can be replicated and scaled across England. We are excited by this opportunity to collaborate across the breadth of the church and to see many more local churches transforming their local communities.
Are you engaged with, or aware of, a church-based initiative that contributes to the health and wellbeing of the wider community? Could this be shared with others to inspire new initiatives? ? Get in touch with us at email@example.com.
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