The Medics for the Community Fund was launched at a celebration event at the Great North Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne on Monday 16 March 2015. The event was attended by over 50 guests including many senior medical and academic professionals who were asked to join the new initiative and support grassroots community and voluntary organisations deliver preventative health work in the North East.
The launch featured a community marketplace with a range of organisations demonstrating the role of the voluntary sector in tackling health inequalities at a local level. Research from Vital Signs suggests that the community-led health prevention plays a major role and often supports the work of and reduces the burden on the NHS in a non-prescriptive way.
With loneliness said to be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad 2010) community projects such as Equal Arts provide a lifeline to many older people in the community. HenPower is project by Equal Arts which uses chickens as a way to engage pensioners in social activities to reduce loneliness and increase mental wellbeing. The Project helps vulnerable older people gain a sense of purpose and being part of something worthwhile. Other exhibitors at the event included HealthWORKS, NIWE Eating Distress Service, Sunderland Cardiac Support Group, Them Wifies, People and Drugs Ltd and North Tyneside Art Studio.
Lisa Cappleman, Head of Philanthropy Development, said:
“Our event was an opportunity to show medics the breadth of projects in the community and the good work that this is achieving. Organisations such as Equal Arts and healthWORKS operate in a way that isn’t about finger wagging, but about meeting the needs of local people in the neighbourhood. This non-prescriptive environment is important and by creating a dedicated Fund we hope to give our communities the tools they need to grow.”
The second half of the event featured a panel discussion led by Caroline Theobald with views from Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, Board member of the Community Foundation, Sally Young, Chief Executive of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, Douglas Hunter, Director of Equal Arts, Sarah Cowling, CEO, HealthWORKS and Annemarie Norman, Project Manager, NIWE Eating Distress Service.
Professor Chris Drinkwater CBE, who worked as a GP in the West End of Newcastle for 27 years, said:
“I worked through the ‘80s, a time of disruption and riots, and one thing I learned was that health problems are socially determined as well as medically determined. Plenty of exercise, a good diet, stopping smoking and drinking less are key factors to a healthy life, but a lot of these are out of the control of the NHS. So we have to find ways of engaging people through community-led projects.
“We are targeting medics to contribute to this Fund because they are seen as healthcare leaders. We want them to support the message we are trying to get out there and, in turn, support the communities that need help.”
The Community Foundation is encouraging medics to support the Fund with a minimum level donation of £1,000 per year. For a higher rate tax payer this can equate to as little as £46 per month. By creating a network of medics, the Fund will seek to support health and wellbeing at a grassroots level but supporters will be consulted on which priorities should be funded.
For more information on the Medics for the Community Fund visit the Fund page here.