by our RBG Correspondent | Woolwich
Councillors, local health leaders and community organisations have pledged to step up their joint efforts to improve health and wellbeing in Royal Greenwich over the next three years – with a focus on tackling the problem of obesity and improving the mental wellbeing of people who live and work in the borough.
Over 100 people, representing a wide range of health and public services, community organisations, businesses, schools, colleges and community groups, were at the official launch today (Weds 14 October) of ‘Healthy Greenwich, Healthy People’, a new strategy aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of everyone living in the borough.
The strategy has been drawn up by the Greenwich Health and Wellbeing Board, a partnership of organisations providing services to, or representing, local people. It was launched at a conference in the Millennium Suite at The Valley, chaired by Cllr Denise Hyland (pictured), Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich and Chair of the Greenwich Health and Wellbeing Board.
Obesity and the need to improve mental wellbeing in the borough have been selected by the Health and Wellbeing Board as the areas where greater progress needs to be made in order to prevent significant levels of poor health, disability and even premature deaths in the borough in the coming years.
Cllr Hyland said: “Obesity and poor mental health have a huge impact on the lives of the individuals affected and on their families. They also place enormous pressures on health and social care services at times of reducing budgets.
“The Council and local health partners share a determination to tackle these key issues. We already support a number of successful and well-regarded projects that are making an important difference to people’s lives.
However there is a pressing need to step up our efforts, and we are committed to increasing the scope and range of services, and to work even more closely with the local community in order to help people turn their lives around.”
Dr Ellen Wright, Clinical Chair of NHS Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and Vice Chair of the Greenwich Health and Wellbeing Board said: “The job of any GP is to help people get healthy and stay healthy. There are no easy solutions to issues such as obesity or poor mental health, but the best way to deal with complex health problems is when GPs, the community and voluntary sector, the Council, local employers and educational institutions, and patients all work together.
“The NHS in Greenwich is fully behind the new ‘Healthy Greenwich, Healthy People’ strategy being launched today. It is a blueprint setting out what all of us in the Royal Borough need to do in order achieve real health improvements.”
A key theme of the strategy – underlined by contributors to the conference – is that tackling obesity and improving mental wellbeing require effort in many diverse areas. Local employers have a vital role to play, for instance, in reducing stress in the workplace, while the Council’s planning policies can be used to ensure transport facilities are designed to promote walking and cycling.
This was reflected in the diversity of organisations represented at the conference, which included different services within the Council, (including adult and children services, planning, housing, leisure services, parks and open spaces and public health teams); local NHS chiefs (from NHS Greenwich Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Hospital Trust); local GPs and health professionals; University of Greenwich; Greenwich Leisure Limited; faith and community leaders; and community and third sector organisations such as Greenwich Action for Voluntary Services, Charlton Athletic Community Trust, Greenwich Mind, The Recovery College and Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency.
Keynote speakers included Gregor Henderson, Director of Wellbeing and Mental Health at Public Health England and Professor Harry Rutter, Senior Clinical Research Fellow at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The conference was also addressed by Tim Baker, Headteacher of Charlton Manor primary school, Raymond Sheehy, Chief Executive Officer of Bridge Mental Health Trust and Claire Pritchard, Chief Executive Officer of Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency.
* Greenwich Get Active: Greenwich Get Active works with 220 local providers to deliver thousands of physical activity sessions to people in the borough. Since 2012, GGA has signed up more than 7,500 clients, setting specific goals to achieve over the year-long period. www.greenwichgetactive.com.
* Good Food in Greenwich: Good Food in Greenwich is a network of businesses, individuals and third sector organisations working towards a fairer, healthier, more sustainable food system. Its achievements include a borough-wide event in Woolwich Square during the summer which was attended by over 4000 people celebrating Good Food, and a fruit & veg stall at Mulgrave school providing families in Woolwich with access to affordable, healthy food. www.goodfoodingreenwich.org.
* Greenwich Community Cookery Clubs: A Taste of Health Greenwich Community Cookery Clubs is a free, open access, self-referral cook & eat programme for Greenwich residents. Cookery clubs take place as a five-week course of weekly 2½ hour sessions and have been attended by nearly 400 people this past year.
* Healthier Catering Commitment: Launched borough-wide in October 2015, the Healthier Catering Commitment aims to increase uptake of healthier food. When a fast food outlet or café signs up to the scheme, it commits to improving the food they sell by making small changes such as offering some healthier options (for example, serving low-sugar drinks, making smaller portions available on request, and offering foods low in fat, calories and salt). When the scheme was piloted in Charlton and Woolwich, over 20 food businesses signed up.
* Targeted courses for families where children are identified as being overweight. These extremely popular courses are shortly to be relaunched, with the service being delivered by Greenwich Leisure Limited in leisure centres and children’s centres across the borough.
* Now’s the Time Thamesmead: – free and low-cost activity and sports programme for Thamesmead residents, run in partnership with Trust Thamesmead, Peabody and the London Borough of Bexley, and funded by Sport England. Since launching in Spring 2014, the project has enrolled some 1,600 residents in over 14,000 low-cost activity sessions.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. Agencies working across the borough recognise that mental health is everybody’s issue, whether it relates to a diagnosis or maintaining good mental health through life’s ups and downs.
The new strategy will enable local organisations to work together in making Greenwich a place that supports good mental wellbeing, while improving the coordination of local activity, increasing public understanding of the issues, creating physical environments that make people feel good and the strengthening the community and social networks that can sustain positive mental health and support people in difficult times.
There is a wide range of provision available across the borough offering support available to people experiencing a mental health problem including:
* ‘Greenwich Time to Talk’ which aims to increase access to talking therapies. www.oxleas.nhs.uk/services/service/greenwich-time-to-talk
* ‘Mindline’, a phone based support service operated by Greenwich Mind. www.greenwichmind.co.uk
* Greenwich Mind also provides online information about how we can all look after our well-being through its - ‘Feelgood Greenwich’ website. www.feelgoodgreenwich.co.uk
* The ‘Big White Wall’, which provides support through a safe an online community guided by trained professionals. www.bigwhitewall.com.
* The Recovery College in Woolwich which provides a wide range of educational courses designed to improve wellbeing, create shared learning experiences and development opportunities for all. www.recoverycollegegreenwich.org.
* Oxleas NHS Trust have set up, ‘HeadScape’, a referral and self-help website to provide support on range of mental health issues that may be affecting children and young people. www.headscapegreenwich.co.uk.
Local organisations are also coming together to raise public awareness of the importance of talking about mental health and to improve understanding of the steps we can take to look after our mental well-being. A week of activities culminated in a day of music, dance, celebration and information about mental well-being in Woolwich to mark World Mental Health Day on 10th October this year.
New work is also being developed by the Royal Borough and NHS Greenwich CCG to address some of the big issues that affect people’s mental well-being in the borough, particularly around the impact of welfare reform, debt and money problems, access to jobs, loneliness and social isolation.