South West London ICS starts community project to address health inequalities

South West London Integrated Care System has launched a new ambitious community-based project which aims to address current health inequalities on the Alton estate in Roehampton.

A £40,000 government grant has funded the Roehampton community health champions project, which aims to help local people with better access to information and support to improve their health.

The project is led by the not-for-profit organisation Estate Art, and is supported by NHS Southwest London and Wandsworth borough council. It aims to recruit a network of local volunteers to share information amongst their neighbours and existing local connections and relationships.

Project leader Lynne Capocciama, who runs Estate Art, said “The health champions project is a scheme funded by the government to find local people who care about local health needs and are passionate about making things better for all of us.”

Over the next twelve months, the project aims to recruit a team of 10 volunteer ‘health champions’ to develop support networks. It hopes that the project will eventually become a self-sustaining network of local people, who will be familiar with and trusted by members of the community. It hopes to dispel myths and disinformation and build better trust through the volunteers connections and relationships.

The volunteers will be asked to commit at least two hours of their time a week and will have duties that include talking to family and friends to identify key health needs in the area, helping to arrange fitness classes and exhibitions to benefit the locals and motivate and empower residents to be involved in more activities that promote better health.

Volunteers will also be given the opportunity to gain a level-2 accredited qualification in understanding public health, which is hoped will offer a pathway to employment for volunteers.

Lynne explained how the project will benefit the estate, saying: “I want us to grab hold of all that purpose and passion and turn it into something permanent. I think the community health champions project could be our chance to own our own future.”