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East Herts Council's social prescribing service and Forever Active scheme win Herts public health excellence awards

Kirsty Feasey (left), Mekhola Ray, KathrineFoy and Claire Pullen (12753436)
Kirsty Feasey (left), Mekhola Ray, KathrineFoy and Claire Pullen (12753436)

A ground-breaking project to help people in East Herts out of loneliness, anxiety and isolation has won an award from the county council.

The Dr Joan Crawley Award 2019 for Public Health Excellence was presented to Kathrine Foy on behalf of East Herts Council's social prescribing service (SPS) team, including Simon Barfoot and Claire Carter.

Forever Active East Herts – another district council project – also won a public health excellence award.

The primary aim of the SPS is to help vulnerable, lonely, isolated, anxious residents to connect with others and support them to improve their wellbeing, self-confidence and happiness.

Cllr Eric Buckmaster, EHC's executive member for wellbeing, said: "Our aspiration is to support residents in need to raise their self-esteem, their confidence to leave their home, their general wellbeing and, to put it simply, their happiness.

"We know that in the 15 months since it started we've been able to significantly improve people's mental wellbeing and reduce their isolation.

"East Herts Council won two of six public health excellence awards county-wide and we're delighted with this independent recognition of our effectiveness in making our district a great place in which to live."

After arranging clinic space in five doctors' surgeries and one pharmacy service, the SPS gained the support of GPs and other health professionals as well as partner agencies.

The council meets the client and agrees a joint action plan which includes signposting them to age-appropriate community groups and help with transport and financial issues by working with clubs and societies, charities, the NHS and other council departments.

Ms Foy said: "It's been immensely satisfying to see how we've been able to help residents feel so much better after meeting the person face to face and agreeing some ideas together.

"I was thrilled to receive the award on behalf of myself and the team. And, of course, none of it would have been possible without the financial support of the council."

Forever Active East Herts improved the health and wellbeing of residents aged 50-plus through subsidised classes of gentle activity, with a focus on getting fitter while socialising and making friends.

Some 2,500 people took part in classes ranging from yoga and tai chi to table tennis and walking football. They were held in village halls and community centres, helping to generate income for them.

Sport England provided funding for three years, with match-funding from the council and support from the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

The project team was led by Mekhola Ray with support from Claire Pullen, Debbie Haselgrove and the communications team.

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