Powerful people

04 August 2015

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a well-respected thinktank has recently published ‘Powerful People’.

It's the latest report to put forward a case for greater citizen and community empowerment in health and care. 

There is a lot of discussion at the moment in involving people about decisions over health and care as a way of to make sure that local services better respond to the needs of people and communities. But as the report makes clear, empowerment must go beyond co-designing services with people. 

‘Powerful People’ calls for the health and care system to shift from one that focuses on treating illness to one that creates health. Empowerment is crucially about people’s capability to have more control over “the wider social conditions that affect them, whether individually or through their relationships with others, so that they can lead the lives they want to live.”

The report also notes that power is not just something that we exercise as individuals, but is something that can be expanded through our relationships with others. Empowerment for health can be successfully encouraged , through connecting socially and building networks by valuing and using local knowledge to solve problems on a local level.

These insights apply even more to those who suffer disproportionately from health inequalities. Too often we focus on people’s needs rather than their capabilities, beginning with what they are lacking rather what they are able to  change and do. This is particularly true for those who live in socially and economically disadvantaged places.

Following the work of Professor Sir Michael Marmot, we now know that the wider social determinants of health, the conditions in which people live and work, are the key causes of the health inequalities that affect society. And we also know that now, more than ever, local action is needed for social change to happen. 

That is why putting people and communities in control is at the heart of the Trust’s approach to addressing health inequalities.

Our aim is to release the capacity of people and communities, drawing on the wisdom of those with lived experience of health inequalities to allow them to address and improve their lives and areas in ways that they know best.

There is some way to go before this approach is recognised and embedded in official health policy. Our hope is that supporting local communities to create the changes that matter will help bring about greater acceptance of the need for empowerment and community control, and also illuminate the ways in which it develops. 

Dr Selina Chen

Director of Policy, People's Health Trust


To read more news from the Trust, click here.

To learn more about our work, click here.

To read the IPPR report, click here.


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