Statistics showed residents in Fleetwood could expect to live shorter lives and experience more life-changing illnesses than people elsewhere in the Country and in fact even than those a few miles away on the Fylde Coast. Something needed to change ….
In March 2016 a meeting was held at The North Euston Hotel and the attendees included local residents, voluntary groups, health professionals, business leaders and representatives from all sectors of the Town. Dr Mark Spencer of Mount View Surgery presented an inspirational message of making better connections, residents taking control over their own health and growing in self-confidence, and the health benefits that would have to individuals and the community as a whole.
Many people present that evening were probably unsure what that really meant but there was a collective willingness to find a way to deal with some of the terrible health issues affecting Fleetwood, to stop “doing to” residents and instead create a community of “doers”. The journey towards a Healthier Fleetwood had begun.
So many months on, how is it going? The starting point had to be ‘connecting’ all the great work going on in Fleetwood so that residents could engage with the services and support available. That process is well underway and there’s now a strong network of partners providing expertise and facilities alongside the enthusiasm and energy of the residents, turning ideas into reality.
The Fleetwood Mens Shed was a suggestion at an open meeting from Tony who spoke about his desire to make a difference, to help even just one person overcome their mental health issues and lead a more positive life. Supported by the Healthier Fleetwood partnership the passion and commitment of the Mens Shed members has seen it well established over the last 6 months, they hold meetings and events several times a week, have a busy shop offering a place to drop in for a friendly chat and it IS making a difference. There are many, many other groups who have benefited from similar support, sometimes by no more than being connected to the right person, by printing a few leaflets or by hosting a taster session for a new activity.
Healthier Fleetwood is a small, independent organisation, able to react quickly and with relatively low running costs so the success of projects is never determined by financial factors alone. The personal stories of residents who have seen their wellbeing improve by getting involved in the community are far more valuable than statistics in a report. Residents like Michaela who a couple of years ago was low on self-confidence but now volunteers at Fleetwood Library, sings with the Harmony & Health group at Marine Hall and has found her inner creative at the ANON arts group. Just a few minutes in Michaela’s company and you are left in no doubt of the benefits of making new friends and trying something new.
But of course not everyone is in a position where they can make changes to their lives and so often the hardest steps are the first. The question of how do you reach the ‘hard to reach’ remains but we have made a start and the progress so far is very encouraging. Being accessible to residents is central to Healthier Fleetwood. Open meetings are held on the first Wednesday evening of the month at Emmanuel at The Mount hall, there’s a weekly drop-in session on Wednesday mornings at Fleetwood Library and a monthly Chatter Cafe the last Friday morning of the month at YMCA Lofthouse Building. These events plus many others throughout the year are free and all about listening to what the community would like to see happen and giving residents the support they need to make it happen.