Two Wandsworth community organisations have teamed up to deliver a project to bring health and wellbeing checks to Roehampton.
Estate Arts with Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network (WCEN) hosted an event together – A healthier future for Roehampton. Over 100 residents attended for free health and wellness checks and the chance to meet a team of experts for advice and help.
Over 60 people went through a health and wellness check including taking their height, weight and waist measurements that were used to assess their risk of long term conditions such as diabetes. Their blood pressure was tested followed by an individual session with a trained volunteer community health coach to delve deeper into some of their findings with support through goal setting.
Lynne Capociamma, who leads the Roehampton health champions, has lived on the estate for 26 years and is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of Alton residents and the wider community. During Covid she helped people cope with lockdown with community sing-alongs, food donations and by promoting vaccinations.
To continue this work, Lynne has turned her dream into reality with a team of 10 community health champions she trained in her own home to start the work.
Funded by the NHS and Wandsworth Council, and supported by local GP surgeries as part of a government grant programme, the champions talk to neighbours, friends and people who drop into the café to signpost them to get the help they need. Around 13,000 people live on the estate but many experience health inequalities which means they are more prone to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease than people in more affluent neighbourhoods nearby. This year residents have been offered tests including blood pressure, diabetes checks and liver scanning.
The idea behind the health champions scheme is to recruit a network of volunteer residents to share information with their neighbours, bringing health to their doorstep. The community-based sessions are now growing to meet the needs of local people for the longer term as the team responds to what the community wants by setting up events and visits.
Lynne said the champions have completed their training and are now going from strength to strength, tackling health inequalities as they reach out to communities through weekly drop-in sessions at the new Roehampton community health café. “They are motivating and empowering residents to get involved in health‑promoting activities,” said Lynne.
Their smiling face is all the reward you need as a champion.”
The champions have been out in the community with a health survey questionnaire completed by 200 residents and further action to boost residents’ health and wellbeing will be planned after the results are analysed.
Symone Planner, an Alton estate resident and local parent school governor, decided to become a champion as she wanted to make a difference to the area. She said: “Some people are dropping in to see us as they are isolated and may not speak to anyone for a week and need a chat about their worries. Their smiling face is all the reward you need as a champion.
Many residents are coming to talk to us as we are a known trusted friend and they may not have the confidence to get medical help themselves.”
“Many residents are coming to talk to us as we are a known trusted friend and they may not have the confidence to get medical help themselves. We can direct people to services they need and help them with digital challenges as well.
“One man who had been feeling tired came to our health check event found out he was prediabetic and we supported him to get the information he needed on sugar levels and diet. He was really grateful and said if it was not picked up, he did not know what state he would be in.”
The project recently saw regional media coverage with a report on BBC London news and the BBC website. In the piece, national public health advisor Kevin Fenton raised concerns that with more people falling into poverty health inequalities could widen. He said: “The stress of the economic challenge may push more people into taking up habits such as smoking, or not exercising or drinking more alcohol. And of course, not having the resources to participate in other health activities.”
More people are coming forward with increasing levels of stress and anxiety due to cost of living worries and the champions suggest practical help with the food bank and can link them onto counselling support services.
Now the champions are becoming known and trusted in the area the champions are looking to boost the mental health of the community with uplifting events. They organised massage relaxation sessions at a local care home for staff in thanks for all their work. Regular yoga sessions have been funded to improving wellbeing in the community and these sessions continue.
The new Roehampton community health café based in the Manresa Clubroom, Fontley Way is running on Mondays 10am to 1pm, Wednesdays 4pm to 7pm and Saturdays 10am to 4pm.