A group of Tyneside residents recently came together to share health and wellbeing messages with vulnerable adults across Newcastle.
Tyne Housing – which provides support, housing, healthcare, training, and investment in communities – enlisted nine residents to be community champions and use their life experiences to promote key health messages to people who often feel excluded from mainstream services.
The Community Champions project, supported by a grant from Newcastle City Council’s Community Health Fund, saw residents visit 14 locations throughout the city last month to encourage COVID vaccine uptake and improvements in the health and wellbeing of communities following the pandemic.
The champions’ engagement included supporting mental wellbeing, promoting stop-smoking services, and reducing alcohol misuse.
Bryan Beverley, wellbeing and learning manager at Tyne Housing, said: “Promoting health and wellbeing is an important part of our approach here at Tyne, and we were delighted to be supported by Newcastle City Council to get out into the community with nine of our inspiring residents, sharing key public health messages and establishing an open dialogue.
“We visited 14 venues over three days, where the community champions offered a unique understanding of the health and social priorities being highlighted and were able to build trusted connections with other residents across Newcastle to signpost support and share accurate information.”
One such community champion, who attended each session to share information, said: “When I first signed up to become a community champion, I had a lot of self-doubt as I thought, ‘what do I know that other people want to listen to?’
“However, after I received training and support to become a community champion, I soon realised I just needed to know where you can get information from and point people in the right direction.
“I’ve also experienced some of the same issues myself, so I could relate to attendees and highlight the importance of the support available.”
Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme was originally set up to help everyone stay up to date with the latest information to protect themselves and others.
However, Tyne Housing says the champions role has since evolved to support other health and social priorities that impact communities.
The Tyne Housing community champions also have an established relationship with the council and its partners, through which they feed back on how guidance is being received and highlight any concerns within communities.
Cllr Karen Kilgour, deputy leader of Newcastle City Council and cabinet member for A Healthy, Caring City, said: “This is a brilliant project helping to deliver key messages to our communities, and I’m delighted we’ve been able to support Tyne Housing through the Community Health Fund to deliver this.
“They are a really inspiring group of people who have become community champions, passing on public health messages to their peers across Newcastle and helping more people to access support and services they may not have previously been aware of or known how to engage with.”
Steve McKinlay, chief executive of Tyne Housing, said: “This project has provided some of our residents with a fantastic opportunity to meet and connect with people in the community to support the small steps that can lead to a reduction in health inequalities.
“Tyne exists to get people to a better place, and it’s brilliant to see the support we provide come full circle, with some of our residents paying it back out into the communities we serve.”