Theme 4: Fit and Healthy

The plan: A Fitter and Healthier Castle Vale

There is a strong correlation between poor health and poverty and due to a low starting base Castle Vale is still a deprived area. MEL Research has been commissioned to carry out a number of health surveys over the past 15 years, with the most recent being 2011, and these provide valuable information to track the health status and perceptions of local residents.

The evidence from the surveys and secondary health data provides a mixed picture. Some aspects of health, such as life expectancy, and the prevalence of smoking, are continuing to improve. Health services in Castle Vale are generally seen to be good and improving, although aspects such as evening or Saturday morning access to the GPs are less satisfactory.

On the other hand, people’s self-rating of their state of health has deteriorated markedly. Other aspects of healthy lifestyles, in particular alcohol consumption, obesity and the related health behaviours of nutrition and physical activity, are getting worse. The loss of facilities such as the reduced programme at the swimming pool and the citizens advice bureau health advice, have added to the problems.

At the time of writing, there are massive changes in the National Health Service, necessary because of the challenges of an ageing population and the need to save £20bn over the next four years; the final outcome of those changes are not yet known. The key difference is who, for practical purposes, will be planning and commissioning services. PCT’s have been abolished and new clinical commissioning groups, led by GP’s will be responsible, although the precise nature of these groups is yet to be determined.

From the point of view of Castle Vale, work has already progressed substantially on the development of modernised approaches to organising and implementing health improvement plans and it is proposed that the existing HIF (Health Improvement Forum) should be replaced by a new enhanced Castle Vale Neighbourhood Health and Wellbeing Board, modelled on the new government NHS structure. The business planning cycle for the Castle Vale Neighbourhood HWB should also mirror the wider model. An annual Strategic Health Needs Assessment should be undertaken (updating the MEL research of 2011), followed by an annual commissioning sub-group that will meet to prioritise annual implementation plans and initiatives, and ensure there is full collaboration and coordination across the rage of service providers including GPs, health promotion and community-based services.

Resident involvement will continue to be the centrepiece for the Castle Vale approach to health improvement. The role of residents will be upgraded and enhanced by creating a Castle Vale Health Voice – a group of residents that will become accredited to the Birmingham Healthwatch standards which allow premises inspection and formal health scrutiny, as well as commenting and advising on healthcare service development. A wider, open involvement for any resident will be achieved by widening the remit of the HIF to become a Community Health Action Talks (CHAT) Network. CHAT volunteers will bring forward suggestions for health improvement and may specialise in particular health issues or needs, such as diabetes, alcohol, and mental wellbeing.

Castle Vale has been a pioneering setting for neighbourhood-based health improvement activities for nearly 20 years. The review and proposals arising from the most recent health project are designed to sustain that reputation and refresh the approach by adapting it to the most recent NHS changes in public health and service commissioning. As a result Castle Vale is now entering yet another period in which this neighbourhood will again be at the forefront of innovation and forward development of area-based regeneration for the decade to come.

Click here to download a copy of the Castle Vale Health Tracker Survey and 10 year action plan.

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