I was pleased to be asked to speak at Camden Council’s April meeting, which included a themed debate on Health inequalities.
I explained that part of Healthwatch Camden’s remit is being a member of Camden’s Health and Wellbeing Board. It means that tackling health inequalities is a core part of our work. Currently we are part of the Board’s initiative to develop citizen led neighbourhood approaches to wellbeing, being piloted in the West of the borough.
Like all local Healthwatch, everything we do and say starts with local people. They set our priorities. We know from what they tell us that promoting equality and tackling the social causes of ill health are important to them. We have looked at this from various viewpoints.
For example, we’ve looked at equal access for deaf people and for people with learning disabilities.
We’ve spoken to people about services in the last phase of life. We picked up some worrying stories of late diagnosis for cancer.
It is clear to us that in our diverse community, work to tackle late diagnosis needs to take account of diverse ways of understanding disease, so that the dialogue between health workers and patients is more equal.
More recently, local people asked us to look at the health impact of poor or insecure housing. We worked in partnership with Camden Federation of Private Tenants to interview people living in rented accommodation. This highlighted the impact on people’s mental health.
Some of our current work is on the impact of food poverty.
For example we’ve spoken to younger people in the service economy who struggle to find the time and the money to eat well. Looking after yourself is only possible if your material circumstances allow it.
A theme running through our work is the power of partnership, both with community organisations and with the statutory sector. So when of local government is working with citizens to address the fundamental causes of health, we see that supporting bottom-up community approaches is part of the answer.
However there are some things that only the council and its statutory partners can achieve. Achieving equality requires services to do things differently. Healthwatch Camden is committed to working with all our partners to encourage action to tackle health inequality.