Our health is shaped by a range of factors outside our control, including the circumstances in which we were born, work and age. These are the social determinants of health and they shape our opportunity to live healthy lives.

The Health Foundation’s grant programme Taking Action on the Social Determinants of Health funds partnership projects between UK Public Health Network organisations and partners from outside the public health community. The projects demonstrate the potential for improving people’s health by acting on four key areas of the social determinants of health: early years and education, work and income, housing and places, and communities.

On 14 January 2020 the Health Foundation and UK Public Health Network held a workshop to bring project teams together to help develop relationships, focus on key learnings and encourage teams to reflect on their progress. Teams were asked what they were expecting the projects to deliver, how they are building win-win partnerships and how they will know if the project is achieving its aims and objectives.

What will the projects deliver?

Each project team presented an overview which outlined their aims and objectives and how far they have come. They were then asked what their project will contribute to the evidence base. Ideas shared included: learning about behaviour change, integrating areas which do not usually coordinate, providing the means to initiate meaningful conversations and identifying good local practices.

Attendees were also asked what may limit their collective impact. Competing agendas and time limits was one limitation – there will always be something more important that needs to be addressed. Also, how the projects could ‘scale up’ and be applicable to a larger population was a concern.

Building successful partnerships

When asked about the factors involved in building and maintaining successful partnerships, project teams suggested having a shared vision, ensuring ownership between parties and having the right people involved who are willing to adopt a give-and-take approach. Open conversations are also essential to ensure the right partnerships are built.

Measuring success

Developing a set of common metrics was challenging. Some project leads said that the role of the metrics and their potential value would need to be defined first. However, there are clear commonalities that the projects have: they are trying to strengthen bonds within our sector, build bridges outside our sector and create links between funders and commissioners.

How will we know if the projects have been successful? Ideas included if knowledge is shared, links with other sectors are built and there is more implementation at the local authority level.

Taking the projects forward

Results will be shared at the end of 2020. In the meantime, project teams were keen to have an ongoing conversation. The UK Public Health Network is setting up a way to share email addresses to help facilitate discussion.

An end of programme event is planned, and the Health Foundation and UK Public Health Network will be looking at how best to facilitate this.

The programmes will also link in well with the Institute of Health Equity’s new report, Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, due to be published this month.

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