Understanding demand

As our understanding of the effects of social circumstances on people’s health care needs increases, Nigel Edwards asks how the system should respond, drawing on findings from a Nuffield Trust seminar.

A new blog from Nigel Edwards of the Nuffield Trust explores the impact of social determinants on the demand for health care, and how the NHS should improve its response. Ensuring that communities, patients and professionals have access to the service they need – rather than the one that is available – would be a good first step.

Edwards suggests the circumstances in which people are ‘born, grow, live, work and age’ – and the effects of those circumstances on people’s behaviour – contribute far more to health and wellbeing across the life course than health care itself.

Full blog:  Demanding better: The social determinants of health care demand


The economic and wellbeing value of parks and green spaces

Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces | Fields in Trust

autumn-1877749_1920.jpgThis new report highlights that everyone, irrespective of who they are and where they live should have the right to enjoy and benefit from local parks and green spaces. Parks and green spaces are proven to help people stay physically and mentally well; places where we can all move, breathe, run and play. They are an important tool to drive social
cohesion, combat loneliness and build community spirit.

The report presents data on the economic value of parks and green spaces, enabling local authorities for the first time to make a robust, evidence-led business case for the economic and wellbeing value of parks and green spaces to local communities.

This research will enable a strategic approach to the provision of parks and green spaces by identifying areas where investment will have the most significant impact on individuals.  It presents a new and compelling argument that, in a difficult economic climate, the provision of parks and green spaces should be prioritised in areas with lower socio-economic groups and a higher representation of BAME communities given the disproportionately high level of benefits that these groups derive from parks and
green spaces.

Key findings:

  • The Total Economic Value to an individual is £30.24 per year (£2.52 per month), and includes benefits gained from using their local park or green space.
  • The Wellbeing Value associated with the frequent use of local parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion per year to the entire UK adult population.
  • Parks and green spaces are estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year based solely on a reduction in GP visits and excluding any additional savings from prescribing or referrals.

Full report: Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces | Fields in Trust

Peer-support groups improve quality of life among older people

Evidence suggests that peer-support groups can help to increase social connectedness among older people, thus improving their quality of life | Mental Health Foundation

standing together
Image source: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Given that 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK (Age UK. 2018), and the associated health risks of these conditions, such as increased mortality and declining cognitive function, there is a need to further investigate the impact of peer-support groups on the health and wellbeing of older people. The Mental Health Foundation’s Standing Together project was set up to address this through facilitated peer support and activity-based groups.


This evaluation sought to understand whether the Standing Together (ST) peer-support groups, which took place between 2015 and 2017, impacted on outcomes related to: lonlieness and social isolation; emotional wellbeing; and meaningful activity.

Findings from the focus groups demonstrated that most participants felt that the groups helped to:

  • combat loneliness by strengthening a feeling of social connectedness and belonging
  • improve wellbeing through discussion among peers and the presence of a kind, caring facilitator
  • provide meaningful, stimulating activities around people with whom they felt comfortable.

Full document: An evaluation of the Standing Together project | Mental Health Foundation

Public Health England recommends a community-based approach to health and wellbeing

Public Health England | Health matters: community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing

New guidance from Public Health England (PHE) focuses on community centred approaches to health and wellbeing, outlining to professionals how to create the conditions for community assets to thrive. 

phe community health assets
Image source: gov.uk

PHE’s guidance includes successful interventions and case studies from across England.

As well as having health needs, all communities have health assets that can contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of its members, including:

  • the skills, knowledge, social competence and commitment of individual community members
  • friendships, inter-generational solidarity, community cohesion and neighbourliness
  • local groups and community and voluntary associations, ranging from formal organisations to informal, mutual aid networks such as babysitting circles
  • physical, environmental and economic resources assets brought by external agencies including the public, private and third sector

Community-centred ways of working are important for all aspects of public health, including health improvement, health protection and healthcare public health. It’s not about expecting communities to do more and saving public money but about investing in more sustainable and effective approaches to reduce health inequalities.

The guidance outlines a range of community-centred approaches: strengthening communities, the role of peers and volunteers, collaboration and partnerships with communities and local services and improving access to community resources.

The guidance can be read in full at PHE  

The impact of lack of sleep

Is lack of sleep affecting your work? In this Public Health Matters blog, Justin Varney explores the relationship between sleep and physical and mental health


Key facts:

  • The annual cost of sleep loss to the UK is £30 billion
  • 200,000 working days lost in the UK each year due to insufficient sleep
  • 1 in 3 people in the UK are affected by insomnia

There is a strong relationship between sleep and physical and mental health and not getting enough sleep has a profound impact on our ability to function. If it develops into a pattern, the cumulative impact is significant.

Links between a lack of sleep and high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are emerging. It also makes us more vulnerable to infection and raises the risk of accident and injury.  Sleep is not just critical to recovery, it essential for maintaining cognitive skills such as communicating well, remembering key information and being creative and flexible in thought.

A new sleep toolkit recommends that businesses create an understanding environment, where employees can be open with their managers about any sleep-related issues that are hampering them at work. That way line managers and employees can identify the risks to health and wellbeing in the workplace and gather the right information to help  put plans in place to manage risks.

The new sleep toolkit takes businesses through this process, with information on the importance of sleep, the business case for good sleep and actions which address the causes of sleep deprivation in employees.

Read more at Public Health Matters

Download the full document: Sleep and recovery: a toolkit for employers

Improving the wellbeing of young people

This report highlights associations between health behaviours, other self-rated life factors (such as bullying and body image) and wellbeing | Public Health England


The 2014 What About YOUth? (WAY) survey included measures of wellbeing which can be analysed to examine the relationships between health behaviours and attitudes on the wellbeing of 15-year-olds.

This report highlights 4 main findings:

  1. Young people who engaged in behaviour which might harm their health such as drinking and smoking, having poor diet or exercising rarely, or who had negative feelings towards their body size reported lower wellbeing than those who did not.
  2. Self-reported wellbeing varied depending on the relative affluence or deprivation of the family, with those whose families were in more affluent groups and living in the least deprived areas reporting higher average wellbeing.
  3. Young people who stated that they had a disability, long-term illness or medical condition reported lower wellbeing than those who did not.
  4. Young people who described their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual or ‘other’ were more likely to have lower wellbeing than those who declared themselves heterosexual. On average these young people also reported lower life satisfaction and happiness, and higher anxiety.

Commissioners and providers of health, social care and education can use this information to target local resources where they are likely to have most impact in terms of improving the wellbeing of young people.

Full document: The wellbeing of 15-year-olds: analysis of the What About YOUth? survey

PHE launches Rise Above for Schools programme

New schools programme to equip young people with coping strategies for modern life | PHE

Image source: VFS Digital Design – Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Dynamic new resources for teachers will help build crucial life-skills for young people to boost their resilience and improve their mental health and wellbeing, as part of a new evidence-based programme for schools unveiled by Public Health England (PHE).

With around 1 in 5 young people experiencing cyberbullying and 1 in 3 reporting that their body was “too fat”, pupils aged between 11 and 16 will be taught how to cope with some of modern life’s most challenging issues, equipping young people with resilience skills that will help them throughout adulthood.

PHE has developed a series of new resources for secondary school teachers to use in their lesson plans as part of the Rise Above for Schools programme. The resources will help teachers to engage pupils with coping strategies about ‘traditional’ health issues, like smoking and alcohol, while also addressing some of the most challenging pressures young people face today in an ‘always on’ social media generation.

Read the full press release here