A STUDY has been published detailing how society in Blackburn with Darwen is vital to improving health in the borough.

Public health specialist at Blackburn with Darwen Council, Laura Wharton, and public health registrar, Andrew Turner, compiled the report, which has been published by the World Health Organisation.

It details how community groups and social movements can be harnessed to tackling health and social problems, especially in deprived areas.

The report highlights how the borough, with a population of about 150,000, has faced a steady decline since the collapse of its industries and faces many health and social problems as a result.

It states: “The challenges to health and well-being faced by Blackburn with Darwen and other post-industrial towns stem from long-term and deep-seated structural and societal issues, and cannot simply be 'treated away'.

“Blackburn with Darwen exemplifies the need to stop investing only in the wrong end of the problem. Instead the aim is to address the underlying risk conditions; to take a population-based approach to improving public health and well-being; to shift focus from treating illness to preventing it; and to build resilience at individual, community and system levels.”

Mrs Wharton and Dr Turner say social movements can help to have significant impacts on health.

Social movements are things which can affect change in society from the lowest rungs to the very top.

One example of a social movement which has improved the health of the wider public is the changing attitude towards smoking.

They can bring about change in health care and improve circumstances for people living with disease disability or illness.

It is hoped they can promote healthy lifestyles, address wider issues and help change cultural and societal norms.

The report concludes: “Social movement thinking is beginning to bear fruit in Blackburn with Darwen, both in terms of changing working cultures and how health professionals engage with and respond to the public.

“Social movements cannot be easily quantified or measured and often do not connect effectively with health services, without the movement either collapsing under the burden of bureaucracy or being pressured to change.

“The Blackburn with Darwen public health team’s approach of actively encouraging health social movements.

“The team is well placed to provide the initial spark for local movements but acknowledges that the long-term success of this approach will rely on local people and communities taking ownership from the very beginning, in order to drive the changes they want."

“The team is ready to listen, to adapt and to support nascent movements. Importantly, they are also prepared to let go and allow movements to take their own course, however unpredictable they may prove to be.”