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Open Access Research article

Costs and effects of a 'healthy living' approach to community development in two deprived communities: findings from a mixed methods study

Helen A Snooks1, Bridie Angela Evans1*, David Cohen2, Michael Nugent3, Frances Rapport1, Jon Skone4, Angie Meredith5, Tricia Davies5 and Diana O'Sullivan4

Author Affiliations

1 CHIRAL, College of Medicine, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK

2 Department of Health, Sport and Science, Glamorgan University, Pontypridd, CF37 1DL, UK

3 Third Sector First, Bridleway House, Newchurch, Rossendale, Lancashire, BB4 9DR, UK

4 Pembrokeshire County Council, County Hall, Haverfordwest, SA61 1TP, UK

5 Community Researcher c/o Swansea University SA2 8PP, UK

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:25  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-25

Published: 11 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Inequalities in health have proved resistant to 'top down' approaches. It is increasingly recognised that health promotion initiatives are unlikely to succeed without strong local involvement at all stages of the process and many programmes now use grass roots approaches. A healthy living approach to community development (HLA) was developed as an innovative response to local concerns about a lack of appropriate services in two deprived communities in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. We sought to assess feasibility, costs, benefits and working relationships of this HLA.

Methods

The HLA intervention operated through existing community forums and focused on the whole community and its relationship with statutory and voluntary sectors. Local people were trained as community researchers and gathered views about local needs though resident interviews. Forums used interview results to write action plans, disseminated to commissioning organisations. The process was supported throughout through the project.

The evaluation used a multi-method before and after study design including process and outcome formative and summative evaluation; data gathered through documentary evidence, diaries and reflective accounts, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and costing proformas. Main outcome measures were processes and timelines of implementation of HLA; self reported impact on communities and participants; community-agency processes of liaison; costs.

Results

Communities were able to produce and disseminate action plans based on locally-identified needs. The process was slower than anticipated: few community changes had occurred but expectations were high. Community participants gained skills and confidence. Cross-sector partnership working developed. The process had credibility within service provider organisations but mechanisms for refocusing commissioning were patchy. Intervention costs averaged £58,304 per community per annum.

Conclusions

The intervention was feasible and inexpensive, with indications of potential impact at individual, community and policy planning levels. However, it is a long term process which requires sustained investment and must be embedded in planning and service delivery processes.