Cannock Chase District Council: co-producing healthy lifestyles with the community

The district has an innovative wellbeing service that has used co-production to put their local community at the heart of developing new projects, from allotment groups to cycling schemes. They have recently been awarded Big Lottery funding to build on what has been achieved so far. This case study shows how district councils have improved the health of their local areas.


Cannock Chase is in the county of Staffordshire in the West Midlands. It has a population of nearly 100,000. Health is varied compared to the rest of England. 

Overall life expectancy at birth in Cannock Chase is 79 years for men and 83 years for women, both similar to the national average.

However, men and women living in the most deprived areas of Cannock Chase live seven and five years less than those living in less deprived areas. Meanwhile, healthy life expectancy at 61 years for men and 62 years for women is below average and greater numbers of people die prematurely. 

Levels of physical activity and excess weight among adults are both significantly worse than the national average, so improving lifestyle choices remains a priority. 

Highlights of progress

Six years ago Cannock Chase District Council decided to transfer its leisure and cultural facilities and wellbeing service over to a charitable trust. 

The move has allowed the service – Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles – to secure funding from a diverse range of organisations from the county council to the Armed Forces Covenant to further develop and compliment its offer.

The service has an eight-strong community wellbeing team that encourages healthy lifestyles. In addition to providing a range of healthy lifestyle programmes including an activity referral scheme, the team has also worked hard to co-produce projects with the local community. 

Over the years, this has included working alongside residents to run festivals, set up allotment groups and run cycling clubs. The service has also worked with its local community to address information gaps to make health and wellbeing information and opportunities more accessible by co-producing a series of websites. 

Chase Fit promotes local physical activities such as walking, gardening, running groups and cycle routes, while Grow Up Great  is aimed at new parents, providing key information about everything from baby groups to healthy weaning.

It seems to have worked. Over the past year there have been around 30,000 attendances at the events and activities organised. 

Community Wellbeing Manager, Lisa Shephard said: “Local people told us that one of the biggest barriers to living a healthier lifestyle was the difficulty in finding local things they could access. They used to have to search 10 different websites. Now we have brought it all together in one place.” 

Meanwhile, the award-winning Well Active website is aimed at people with learning, physical and health needs. It was developed with the help of a local SEN sixth form.

It is voice-aided so the user can choose for words to be read out. The size and colour of the text can also be changed. It includes information about everything from food  safety to volunteering opportunities and interview coaching.

Future plans

During the autumn of 2018, Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles was awarded funding from the Big Lottery Fund to build on the work it has been doing. More than £400,000 has been made available to fund local projects that help improve health and wellbeing, fitness and general quality of life. 

It was supported by Staffordshire County Council and Cannock Chase Council with the bid and over the next five years it is expected that the community wellbeing team will work with more than 40 community and voluntary groups to get new projects off the ground.

One of the early ones, which is in the process of being rolled out, is with the Springfield’s Residents Association. Residents are to  be given training and supplied with the equipment to maintain their green spaces. 

Jeanette Stevenson, from the Springfield’s Resident Association, said empowering local communities is the right way forward. “The funding will enable us to follow through on our own ideas of what is needed on our estate, rather than just talking about it. We can’t wait to see things finally come to fruition.

"In the past, mining communities such as ours would have an industrial infrastructure whereby social and health activities, like regular clubs, trips out and training, would be organised and developed for us. Now we do it. Only by working together do you get it right and ensure local people remain enthusiastic.”

Matt Poole, Head of Regional Funding for  the Midlands at the Big Lottery Fund, said  the organisation was very impressed with  the approach and how it was being “led by local people”.

“It’s fantastic to see money raised helping to bring this to life, boosting health and wellbeing and building relationships in the local community.”

Learning and key messages

What has been common for all Cannock Chase’s projects is that the local community has been fully involved in deciding both what needs to be done and how. 

Ms Shephard said: “We have worked with residents associations, church groups, community partnerships, town councils  and schools to name a few. It is very much a co-production.”

But she said that sometimes work needs to be put in to establish and encourage local participation. “Working with community groups is fine – when there are the structures there”. But not every area has them. So we have had to set up our own focus groups sometimes. We have been out there at the school gates, recruiting parents, or outside the local supermarket talking to older people.

Contact

Lisa Shephard
Community Wellbeing Manager
Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles
lisa.shephard@ihlmail.org