Faith Leaders Network launches next phase

A diverse group of faith leaders in Barking and Dagenham gathered together recently to hear about an exciting new programme that will see faith groups getting involved in running vital health-focused projects for their communities.

Barking and Dagenham is both one of the most deprived boroughs in London and has one of the lowest life expectancies for its residents in the country. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are some of the biggest causes of early mortality, often being linked back to lifestyle choices including smoking and obesity for which the borough has some worst rates in the country. The borough is also one of the most diverse, which presents additional challenges in providing culturally appropriate care and navigating issues and concerns held by communities that often felt let down by the health system.

The Faith Leaders Network has received funding from the Public Health team at Barking and Dagenham Council to allow faith leaders to run projects that will help their communities deal with some of these challenges. Faith groups will be able to design projects that tackle particular health inequalities present in their groups, while also providing messaging and signposting to other health initiatives. The faith leaders will also have access to health professionals, who will be able to provide advice, help run sessions particularly around health screening, and provide health messaging. The faith leaders will also be able to access support from Healthwatch Barking and Dagenham, who will be providing signposting to healthcare services, and using the participants in the project to gather information on their experiences with the local health and care system.

FaithAction, who administer the Faith Leaders Network, has previously run a project helping faith communities deliver vital health focused projects to the local community in Tower Hamlets. The Faith Health Action Partnership (FHAP) was externally evaluated, which concluded that the programme been a great success in improving health outcomes in communities that are often hard to reach. We hope that the programme in Barking and Dagenham will show a similar impact on the communities the faith leaders of the Faith Leaders Network serve.