Community Spirit Level, a pioneering new project from RSPH has been selected by the Health Foundation, to be part of its new programme of activities aimed at taking action on the social determinants of health.

The social determinants of health, also known as the ‘wider determinants of health’ are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. This includes a wide range of social, cultural, political, economic, commercial and environmental factors. 

The Health Foundation called on UK Public Health Network organisations to partner with organisations outside the public health community, that work in or can influence the social determinants of health, exploring innovative ways to work across sectors. Community Spirit Level is one of five projects the Health Foundation is supporting that will each run for 12–18 months. 

As part of Community Spirit Level, RSPH will undertake research with Locality, the national network for community organisations, to understand how ‘community spirit’ and people’s connections and belonging with their community impacts on health and wellbeing by examining different proxies of community spirit, such as volunteering rates and availability of community assets.

This research will inform the development of a ‘Community Spirit Level’, comprised of the different factors recognised to influence the healthiness of a community, which will be applied to measure 6 communities nationally, falling in the top 20% of most deprived areas for health inequalities. The project will also identify areas of good practice which have strong resilient communities and those where this is less developed.

Duncan Stephenson, Director of External Affairs and Marketing at RSPH, said: “We are delighted to be part of this very important programme of activities from the Health Foundation and to be partnering with Locality.  

It is almost a decade since Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s ground breaking report on health inequalities and the social determinants of health. RSPH is committed to reducing these inequalities so that everyone is given the opportunity to optimise their health and wellbeing.  

Professor Marmot identified that around 1 in 5 people in some of our most deprived areas lack social support and our Community Spirit Level project will aim to better understand the barriers to, and factors which, underpin strong and healthy communities, with a particular focus on community spirit.”

Tim Elwell-Sutton, Assistant Director for Healthy Lives at the Health Foundation said: “We know that the physical, social and economic environments people live in have a huge impact on their health. These project teams will work with a wide range of organisations from beyond the health sector to find ways giving people better opportunities to live healthy, productive lives.”

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of Locality said: “We’re really pleased to be involved in this project. Community organisations play an essential role across the social determinants of health, helping to tackle some of the effects of poverty that underpin health inequalities. They are also a vital part of local social infrastructure, fostering relationships and participation within communities, combating loneliness and building community power. 

We look forward to working on this project to expand the evidence-base and understanding about the power of community in keeping us well. We hope that this project will help bring about a greater emphasis of community-centred approaches within the health system.”