After a career in the NHS, Carshalton resident Pam Foulks wanted to continue sharing vital health information – so has taken on the challenge of becoming one of the first community health navigators in Sutton.
Volunteer Centre Sutton has launched the initiative, in collaboration with NHS South West London, to improve people’s health and wellbeing, training 17 dedicated community health navigators to take services out to the residents of the borough.
The project aims to address health inequalities in Sutton – unfair and avoidable differences in people’s health across the population, and between different communities.
Research from the King’s Fund shows that people living in areas where incomes are higher could expect to live almost two decades longer in good health than those where the average income is lower. People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are also more likely to experience inequalities, such as being more at risk of certain health conditions.
Pam was interested in joining the new team when she retired. She said: “It’s been good to catch people who had not seen their GP for a while, taking health checks to them. A simple check could save their lives as, if they have high blood pressure, they may be at higher risk of stroke. The first person I checked at a church event did not know they had high blood pressure and I referred them to their GP straight away.”
Our dedicated volunteers are passionate about making a difference and have committed their time and expertise to ensure that everyone has access to vital health checks.”
Anita Maullin, chief executive of Volunteer Centre Sutton said: “Through their efforts, these volunteers aim to improve the wellbeing of Sutton residents by empowering people to make informed decisions about their health. Our dedicated volunteers are passionate about making a difference and have committed their time and expertise to ensure that everyone has access to vital health checks.”
The volunteers have undergone comprehensive training to equip them with the skills and knowledge to carry out the checks. Community health navigator Sudeeptha Natarajan added: “I have learned a lot about health through the training and am enjoying meeting people and sharing the knowledge. I am looking forward to carrying out more health checks across Sutton.”
At their first event at Sutton South Hello, a group for older residents, the community health navigators completed 16 health checks, including blood pressure monitoring and height and weight measurements, so people could find out more about healthy weight. These screenings can assess future risk of potential health issues such as diabetes so people can take early preventative action.
The navigators have also been trained how to help people make the most of the NHS app.
Looking ahead, the project is expanding its reach by organising a programme of regular events throughout the borough, partnering with community groups. More recently they went out to the Food Hub on the Roundshaw estate offering health checks.
Anyone interested in joining the team or finding out more can register their interest on this form.