£40m of Lottery funding is to be invested in community health schemes across England as new research reveals that taking part in these projects can make you almost three times happier than if your income were to double.
14 organisations, including local health bodies and leading charities, will receive the funding from Big Lottery Fund to deliver the interventions to encourage healthier eating, increase physical activity and promote good mental health.
Many of the projects will target vulnerable and marginalised groups such as families struggling with food poverty; older people experiencing loneliness and isolation; and young homeless people.
The funding comes as research from a five-year report compiled by Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the New Economics Foundation (NEF) suggests that community-based health projects can significantly improve people’s happiness and life satisfaction.
The research – which surveyed just under 2,000 people taking part in Lottery-funded schemes including cooking lessons for families, cycling and therapeutic gardening projects – showed an average increase in life satisfaction from 6.5 to 7.1 on a ten point scale, which was sustained at least six months after their involvement in projects had ended. To put this into perspective, evidence suggests that even if a person’s income were to double, life satisfaction scores would only rise by just over 0.2 (see notes to editors for more information).
The data, which is one of the biggest sets available in the UK, looking specifically at the impact of community health interventions, also found the proportion of people reporting depressive symptoms fell 35 per cent after taking part in projects and the amount of people feeling relaxed increased by 41 per cent.
The projects increased self esteem, with almost 25 per cent more people feeling good about themselves and optimistic about the future. Participants were also more likely to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day, an increase of 16 per cent, and become more active, with those only taking part in low levels of physical activity falling 21 by per cent.
Building on that research, Big Lottery Fund has today awarded £40m Lottery funding to around 200 health projects that will work in communities across England.
Big Lottery Fund England Chair Nat Sloane, said: “People might assume that more traditional clinical approaches are the answer to improving society’s health and wellbeing and tackling specific health problems such as obesity, mental ill health and type 2 diabetes.
“But our evidence suggests that very effective solutions can lie within communities themselves. It shows that interventions delivered by charities and organisations that understand the makeup of local communities, and will work with local people to deliver exactly what they need and in the way they need it, can have a very significant impact.
“That’s why we’re investing a further £40m today in community health projects over the next two years. As well as directly enabling tens of thousands more people across the country to improve their health and lead more fulfilling lives, the investment will help us build an even better evidence base about what works.”
Projects receiving funding today include Touch Wood, being run by Westbank in locations across Somerset, which will offer sociable and practical experiences to men of different ages working with trees, wood and natural processes such as carving, whittling and sawing. The project will enable men living in rural communities who feel isolated, to connect with others in a supportive and creative environment, developing and passing on their skills and interests resulting in improved mental health and personal relationships, increased physical activity and healthier eating.
And the Enable East programme, part of the North Essex Partnership NHS Trust will use funding to run projects in two areas with a high concentration of military families, Northumberland and County Durham. An interactive programme of workshops will support the health and wellbeing of families of the armed forces as evidence shows this group is at a higher risk of developing mental health problems without the right support. There will also be a weekend retreat for siblings of lost and wounded servicemen specifically aimed at supporting young people’s mental health.
Big Lottery Fund is also making awards to six national programmes of work led by leading charities and health campaigns to build on successful Lottery-funded campaigns delivered over the last five years. They include Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, who will extend their mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, and work in particular with African and Caribbean communities, with an award of £3.6m; Sustrans which receives £3.6m to deliver 19 projects with a range of partners encouraging people to walk and cycle more through their Travel Actively portfolio; and Foyer Federation, who will use an award of £3.6m to tackle health inequalities facing homeless and disadvantaged young people.
Also receiving funding today, Children’s Food Trust receives £3.6m to extend their Let’s Get Cooking school-based cooking clubs that improve the food that children and their families eat across England. The Food for Life Partnership, led by Soil Association, which has in the last five years delivered a 28 per cent increase in primary school-age children reporting eating 5-a-day, will use a £3.6m award to develop their ‘whole setting’ model and take it into new priority sectors for public health including early years, hospitals, care homes, universities, and workplaces
Age UK will use £3.6m to build on the success of their Fit as a Fiddle programme, ensuring older people have access to a tailored package of support that improves their wellbeing, keeps them out of the GP surgery and feeling happy.
For a full list of awards being made today, visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/global-content/-/media/Files/wb_may_2013
For more information about BIG’s evaluation, visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/research/health-and-well-being/evaluating-well-being
Blog article taken from a press release supplied by The Big Lottery Fund