Community Health Champions are members of the community, local businesses and organisations that volunteer their time and life experiences to address barriers to engagement and improve connections between services and underserved communities. Their work helps to address health inequalities in the short-term, but also in the longer-term by highlighting health promotion and prevention.
The scheme, run by Richmond Council, started in 2021 with the recruitment of Richmond Covid Champions. This group of around 60 people worked as a communications platform, sharing key messages during the start of the pandemic.
Patricia Kanneh-Fitzgerald leads the project and since joining the council in January has worked to expand the programme, recruiting more champions and broadening their focus to cover larger issues of health and wellbeing.
Patricia said: “The project is going from strength to strength. We know the Covid Champions made a big difference during the pandemic, supporting and improving vaccine uptake, but now we are able to look at other areas of health. These include cancer awareness and prevention, dementia and mental health, and people are getting the chance to share their experiences of having these conditions and using the services available in the borough.
“For example, we have one member who has recently been diagnosed with Dementia and she has been brave enough to share her experiences in real time, which is having an input into the Richmond dementia health and care strategy work for this condition.”
The Community Champions are a lifeline, helping us to reach out to different communities and have health conversations with people we might not have reached. They are an essential part of our frontline, helping to keep residents healthy.”Shannon Katiyo, Director of Public Health at Richmond Council
Shannon Katiyo the Director of Public Health at Richmond Council added: “The Community Champions are a lifeline, helping us to reach out to different communities and have health conversations with people we might not have reached. They are an essential part of our frontline, helping to keep residents healthy.”
Health Champions currently attend a drop-in session every two weeks and there is the option of relevant training. The group is now in the process of arranging a health and wellbeing event which they will run for their communities.
Jo Farrar, Executive Lead for Richmond Place said: “This is a fantastic scheme and I know they are always looking for new champions, so I would urge anyone interested to get in touch with the team to find out more. This is also an excellent resource for local health professionals to really understand the communities we are working with and how we can improve vital services.”