Guest blog with Hywel Dda University Health Board: Housing and health - What next?
Dr Gareth Morgan, strategic partnership manager at Hywel Dda University Health Board, discusses his spotlight session - Building bridges between housing and health.
This explored the crucial links between health and good quality housing, and explains why it’s vital that the health and social housing sectors work in partnership.
The link between poor quality housing, overcrowding and lack of sanitation on health has been proven consistently. Even now, housing is still highly relevant to public health and health service pressures.
There is compelling evidence that housing is a major factor in the health and wellbeing of the population. This is so well documented that we now need a way to systematically embed housing into health and social care delivery programmes.
Although there is some good practice across Wales, this tends to be at a local level - and we need a spread and scale programme, where good practice is shared for local implementation, across Wales. You can also find out more about the spread and scale academy, Dragons Heart, here.
My own contribution to this, in partnership with a range of colleagues, has been to develop a good practice guide on housing and health via a Bevan Exemplar award, which t is widely applicable across different organisations and partnerships.
It is important to be clear on the potential of housing to support an integrated and person-centred health and social care programme. For the triangle of health, social care and housing to work, each element needs to have equal weight, and it needs to be based on true partnership.
Pressure in any part of the system will impact on pressures elsewhere, so there is mutual interest between the sectors in getting this right, not least because it will deliver efficient and effective services.
For example, Care and Repair provide housing adaptations for older people and there is good evidence that one pound spent on this can provide a return on investment of £7.50. This illustrates the interconnectedness of our work.
In the spotlight session, some of the attendees questioned whether the housing sector is really valued as an equal partner. It is important to explore this further through further discussions between housing and health colleagues. There might be opportunities to explore how enablers to collaboration can be developed, for example information sharing protocols and joint training.
Another line of action could be a position paper from the housing sector about the opportunities and barriers of partnership working.
I believe we could build some tools to help this, such as training resources on housing for healthcare staff, and developing information sharing protocols between sectors to ensure person-centered services.
Another discussion point during the session was on professional jargon, which we all sometimes fall into.
Regardless of the sector we work in, as professionals we are all interested in providing services to our communities that promote positive outcomes for the individuals we serve. This is obviously a shared endeavor, so establishing good and clear communication is critical.
One colleague shared an example of a local project in south east Wales where the dynamics between colleagues were very strong and allowed for high-quality services and the flexibility to be innovative as well.
While work is evidently in train to recognise the important interactions between housing and health, the question remains - what next? The answer depends on where we want to get to. Perhaps there is something to be done to ensure the profile of housing is raised sufficiently, so that consideration of housing issues is a default setting where appropriate. With this in mind, discussions are also underway with colleagues in the University of South Wales about a Centre of Excellence for housing and health, which will be the subject of a future CHC spotlight session. These discussions are about partnership and working closely together.
In the current perfect storm of under-pressure services and the cost of living crisis, a truly integrated health, social care and housing programme could be a win/win scenario for everyone. Perhaps Wales could even lead the world in taking this forward given we already have some good practice and the advantages of our size, both geographically and by population.
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