Valuing the Vibe

By Jack Blankley

Recently, Public Health Dorset joined a number of local charities, community groups, social enterprises and other partners to celebrate the community groups and neighbourhoods in Bournemouth.

It was a fantastic day, with other 250 guests and over 85 local organisations who all valued each other’s incredible impact on the local community, and more importantly, made contacts and relationships which hopefully will strengthen these groups in the future.

The most enjoyable part of the event was experiencing the positive energy radiating from everyone, who were sharing stories, advice and frustrations. There was a strong vibe that everyone was benefiting from this meeting. I’ve been to a number of these events – and the feeling is always the same.

It was striking to me that there were a number of local initiatives which we in Public Health would describe as activities which would support preventing long term ill health or social isolation. We heard from a local mother who was involved a group called ‘Southbourne Mum Runners’ which was a Facebook group which does exactly what it was called – and organises local runs for local mums.

While I was excited to think about the physical and mental health benefits these group runs would bring – it was obvious that to the local mum these benefits were not the priority. For her and the group, it was about getting together and having fun. A phrase she used was “I can’t describe why it works, it just does.”. It got me thinking, do we value this, and should we be doing more to champion that community vibe?

I feel in Public Health Dorset, we are pretty good as recognising the vibe – that is one of the reasons we got involved in Collaborative Practice which see volunteers help their local GP practices and change the way they operate. But it was a timely reminder that community groups don’t think or use the same language as us, have the same priorities as us or think in our terms.

Our role should be not to dictate to these projects and attempt to control their activities, but aim to be the strongest advocate of their work. In my opinion, we need to make sure the health system knows about these initiatives and their value to the wider system.

When I meet GP practices in my locality, Bournemouth East, we don’t spend enough time thinking about community groups. How many within the health system know about these groups and how to engage with them? I can only speculate how many socially isolated mums who are out there and would receive support from a group like Southbourne Mum Runners, but I guess it’s a lot.

That’s the role of the locality workers, but it is for everyone in our team to champion? When we’re talking to our partners about prevention, are we really thinking about small community groups, like Southbourne Mum Runners enough and championing the vibe they bring?

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