Community Work Approaches to Health Inequalities

The Community Workers Co-operative (CWC) is committed to the promotion of
Community Work as an intervention for social change. A key element of its work
has been, and continues to be, the active promotion and advancement of an
equality agenda and the promotion of Community Work approaches to equality
issues within the various arenas within which the CWC operates at national,
regional and local levels. One of the areas in which the CWC is involved is health
inequality.

In 2000, a number of members of the CWC came together to explore why health
issues are a concern for Community Work. Their work developed into establishing
a Health Subgroup consisting of individual members of the CWC who are involved
in Community Development Work, and interested in Community Work approaches
to addressing health inequality. Since that time the Subgroup has made
submissions promoting Community Work approaches to addressing health
inequalities, including a submission to the NAPS Health Working Group. The
Subgroup has also been active in setting health priorities for national negotiations,
and promoting Community Work in the National Health Strategy and the Primary
Care Strategy through its membership of the Health Linkage Network. Over the
course of this work, the Subgroup has identified a need for a strategy guide for
locally based Community Workers to support them to incorporate health into their
Community Work agenda, but also to support them to promote Community Work
approaches to addressing health inequalities at a local level.

The Strategy Guide is being produced by the CWC in order to highlight best
practice and to form a basis of practice guidelines for locally based workers
regarding Community Work and health. The production of the Strategy Guide is
opportune at a time of developing interest in health inequalities, and at a time
when a major restructuring of the health service is beginning to take place in line
with the commitments under the National Health Strategy 2001 Quality and
Fairness – a Health System for You. The Health Strategy puts a focus on health,
not just on health services and acknowledges that peoples health is affected by
socio-economic, environmental and cultural factors. The Strategy which
emphasises the non-medical aspects of achieving full health and recognises the
formal and informal role of the community in improving and sustaining social wellbeing
in society, has ‘Strengthening Primary Care’ as one of its Frameworks for
Change.

Health inequality refers to “the differences in the prevalence or incidence of health
problems between individual people of higher and lower socio economic status”
(World Health Organisation 1998). Because of the prevailing medical definition of health, Community Workers and Community Development initiatives often do not recognise the health outcomes that arise from Community Work. Community Workers are engaged in work that both promotes and produces good health, though they might not have a clearly
defined health agenda. They work with the most marginalised groups and
communities. They work to empower and enable them to identify needs and to
develop confidence, knowledge and skills to work collectively to bring about
change in the central conditions of their lives. Their work is focused on building
healthy communities free from poverty, exclusion and discrimination. It is focused
on ensuring that marginalised groups are enabled to move from an experience of
powerlessness to a sense of well-being and a realisation of their potential, and the
realisation of their right to enjoy and fully benefit from the fruits of social and
economic development.

This Strategy Guide is produced specifically to generate an analysis of Community
Work approaches to health inequalities at local level and to share experiences of
work to date through the presentation of case studies of Community Work
approaches to addressing health inequalities. The Strategy Guide is also intended
to help develop a focus on influencing policy with a view to achieving more healthy
communities. Four case studies have been chosen for inclusion in the Guide.
These detailed case studies reflect the core elements of good practice from a
range of different perspectives.

Read the Full Document

Community Work approaches to address Health Inequalities (.pdf)