March 5, 2018

Community as a health factor

Tree Hugger - The English town of Frome has seen a significant drop in emergency hospital admissions since it began connecting ill residents with volunteers and support groups.

"It takes a village to raise a child," as the saying goes, but one could just as easily say, "It takes a village to care for the elderly and infirm." A fascinating experiment in the town of Frome, England, has discovered that building a sense of community goes a long way toward improving people's health and happiness.

It began in 2013, when family physician Helen Kingston launched the Compassionate Frome project. Kingston had noticed that many of her patients felt "defeated by the medicalization of their lives." They were treated more like a "cluster of symptoms" than human beings with health problems. Together with the town council and representatives from the National Health Service, Kingston created a directory of local support groups and volunteers. New groups were formed to fill any gaps.

The goal was to reconnect ill or depressed residents with the rest of society, which would give them new purpose in life and improved access to care. The system relied strongly on volunteers called 'health connectors', who provided a broad range of informal support services, many of which are atypical in today's world of overmedicalized care.


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