Tackling complex health problems deepened by Covid-19
24 February 2021
The impact of Covid-19 has been most visible in our hospitals over the last year. The extreme pressure on critical care services combined with rolling news coverage has introduced us to now familiar images of front-line staff covered by gowns and gloves as they care for patients hidden behind the mask of a ventilator.
But the reality is that the knock-on effects of the pandemic reach far beyond the hospital walls, deepening many pre-existing health problems and widening health inequalities in our local communities.
It’s become increasingly clear that alongside the struggle to save lives in intensive care, we face an equally challenging fight to address food poverty, poor mental health, digital exclusion and other complex issues that obstruct the most vulnerable in our communities from leading healthy lives. The pandemic has also brought into focus the widespread inequality in north west London and has shown that Covid-19 has disproportionately affected those communities which have been at the sharp end of inequalities for decades.
Compassionate Communities is a unique opportunity for us to confront these problems head-on by working more closely than ever before with local organisations who understand the causes and effects of these seismic health issues. At Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust we recognise that we have a greater role than simply providing healthcare services. We're also playing an active role in addressing the many other factors in people’s lives that may prevent them from being healthy – and supporting our patients, staff and communities outside traditional healthcare settings.
"The knock-on effects of the pandemic reach far beyond the hospital walls, widening health inequalities in our communities."
Hannah Fontana, Programme Manager
With fantastic support from our partners at Imperial Health Charity, we will be in a position to award up to £450,000 in grants to community organisations this spring – enabling us to support a wide range of projects that aim to tackle at least one of four key health problems we’ve identified:
· food poverty and obesity
· mental health and wellbeing
· digital poverty and exclusion
· language barriers and misinformation.
To help us address these issues, we want to connect with people across north west London who are already leading fantastic initiatives and really understand what our local populations need. That’s why we reached out to over 80 local groups last year to help us form a ‘community panel’ to support with the design of the Compassionate Communities programme. This focus on collaboration will enable us to make sure this funding reaches those who need it most.
Right now we’re encouraging local organisations in north west London to apply for a share of the funding via the charity’s website, and later in the spring we will award a mixture of large, small and micro grants to support a range of community-led projects that will benefit those people who consistently experience health inequalities and have been particularly affected during the pandemic.
As well as awarding this vital funding, we will also offer extra advice and support to help these community groups maximise the impact of their work and make their projects more sustainable for the long term.
Working with Imperial Health Charity to reach out further into our local communities, we hope to make a real and lasting impact for thousands of people in north west London who consistently come up against barriers that prevent them leading healthier lives.