New approach to delivering better health outcomes

Published date

Harlow Council wants to radically overhaul its approach and strengthen its partnership work with local health organisations with the aim of helping residents to lead long, healthy, independent, happy and safe lives.

On 1 December, the council’s Cabinet agreed a new Health and Wellbeing Strategy which will help guide partnership work towards achieving positive health outcomes for Harlow residents.

In a departure from previous approaches to tackling public health in the town, socio-economic factors (education, employment and income) will have more of a bearing on the approach the council will take to arrest the current trends that point to significant wellbeing issues that need to be confronted in earnest.

The strategy has not only been refreshed by the council to reflect the current health challenges facing the town, but to also cover future health and wellbeing issues and the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on public health in our community.  

As part of the strategy’s new approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of residents (backed by data under an evidenced-led approach) five key priorities have been identified:

  • Reducing health inequalities in Harlow by focusing on the wider causes of poor health.
  • Increasing physical activity and supporting people towards a healthy weight. 
  • Improving mental health and wellbeing, including reducing suicide rates. 
  • Addiction issues, including reducing alcohol and substance misuse.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ 
  • ​​​​​​​Supporting long-term independence for all sections of Harlow’s community.

Councillor Joel Charles, the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Business and Community Resilience, says that a clearer focus on what causes poor health and wellbeing will make a difference:

“The council is taking action to deal with the significant health and wellbeing issues impacting young and older generations in the town. The latest statistics on childhood obesity, mental health illness, alcohol misuse and drug addiction make for sobering reading. That is why a new approach is needed to confront these issues through a partnership approach that will involve working with a range of district and county public health leaders.

“In a departure from the normal approach to this type of strategy, the council has focused on the socio-economic determinants of health and wellbeing. Poor educational attainment and static income progression are two major factors that need to be reversed if more progress is to be made to curb health and wellbeing inequalities in the town. The council also makes it clear that mental and physical health are given equal priority in the strategy.

“The health and wellbeing issues facing the town will not be addressed overnight, the aim is to deliver on the outcomes included in the strategy by 2028. An action plan is in place to take this work forward following the conclusion of the consultation process.

“Nobody denies that our local acute and primary healthcare leaders are working flat out to respond to the impact on health and wellbeing as a result of the pandemic. The council believes it has a key role to play in helping to reduce the impact of avoidable public health issues that have been compounded by the pandemic and other external factors that put pressure on existing healthcare provision.

“This strategy is about taking responsibility for making better progress and being honest about the state of public health in the town today and what steps need to be taken in the years ahead to improve wellbeing in general.”

The strategy will now go out to public consultation for six weeks before it is adopted.