Collective control

What is collective control and why is it important to health?

When people have control over their lives and the decisions that affect them, they are able to improve and maintain their health. Collective control is power exercised by groups of people, and this group power also affects health.

There is a strong body of evidence which demonstrates that people and communities need to have greater power over the decisions and actions that affect their lives in order to improve and maintain their health. Collective control is also linked to health because the level of control we have over our lives is closely related to the other social determinants of health. For example, people who live in low-quality housing, or have insecure work or no job are less likely to have control over their lives.

"People cannot achieve their fullest health potential unless they are able to take control of those things which determine their health.” World Health Organisation, Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion.

Feeling unable to affect what is happening, and what choices and options are meaningfully available can lead to low self-confidence and self-esteem. Living in an area that faces higher levels of disadvantage increases the likelihood of this experience, which may be reinforced by negative portrayals in the national media or other stigma about the neighbourhood.

There are different types of control which overlap – individual and collective; direct and indirect and actual and perceived. The process of engaging people, and the empowerment of neighbourhoods are vital parts of achieving collective control.

Our approach to control

Achieving collective control is central to People’s Health Trust’s funding programmes; we support people to have power over the decisions that affect them locally. Through neighbourhood engagement and empowerment, residents can use their collective power to influence and affect change locally.

We are also working to ensure that other decision-makers recognise the value of communities having collective control and the mechanisms they can use to achieve this.

The Trust’s dynamic model of control demonstrates how different aspects of control (knowledge, understand and skills; money and resources; social connections and influence) interact to build up a sense of control and confidence that we can make and influence change. This leads to action and change in communities.

Evidence about collective control 

Collective control is emerging across all of the Trust’s programmes, particularly among those residents most closely involved. People are reporting an increased sense of control, both in their own lives, and collectively.  Read our impact reports here

The strong body of theory and evidence around the role of control in health is increasingly influencing organisations committed to improving wellbeing and social justice,  and is becoming recognised as a critical part of the public health agenda.

For more information about the evidence base around control and health, request a copy of our literature review developed by our learning partner, the New Economics Foundation. The review explores the evidence base around the relationship between collective control and health inequalities. 

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