Community is a Public Health Service

If we’ve learned anything over the past 12 months then surely it’s that stronger communities are one of the key solutions to dealing with public health crises.

Whether through a coordinated response to public health controls, or a social response to mutually beneficial movement restrictions, or simply the way that the community sector has worked day and night to limit hardship and suffering – it seems that community is the backbone of society and sadly, it seems we are on course to slip a disc.

Stephen Reicher is a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science and he writes in the Guardian:

By now, there are numerous studies, reviews of studies and even reviews of reviews that all point to the harmful effects of social isolation and help to explain what Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has called “the biggest hit to mental health since the second world war”. But the costs of isolation aren’t only mental. They are physical too. Loneliness may have a similar impact on mortality as smoking, drinking or obesity. The pain of being alone and feeling ignored by others is every bit as real as the pain of physical injury.

It’s clear that community along with its acronym partners voluntary and social enterprise groups (VCSE) have played a crucial role in the pandemic through supporting individuals, under-served groups, and vulnerable people to access public services and even simply to access food and health services.

So can we continue to acknowledge that social isolation is a public health emergency and that social prescribing along with increased coordination between the VCSE sector and public health is the antidote. Let’s come out of the Covid-19 pandemic with a stronger, more resilient population: one that funds our community to be able to learn and act and coordinate a ground-level response to what we have learned and not one that just removes the pump handle.

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