Published: 25 July 2022
New research from Public Health Wales, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action and the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol suggests that harnessing the upsurge in community-led action during the pandemic response, could be key to building more resilient communities throughout Wales, who are better able to respond to the ongoing impact of recovery and adapt to future crisis.
During the pandemic, people played a vital role in both helping the most vulnerable and helping official agencies by becoming an integral part of the wider more formal response to the pandemic; with communities themselves often being the most knowledgeable about their community’s own needs and how to meet them, and with established connections and trust.
While such emergency situations can often exacerbate weaknesses in infrastructure and systems, and exacerbate existing disparities in our communities; they are also powerful catalysts for change and create opportunities to transform in recovery, and improve the capacity to prevent and withstand similar challenges in the future.
Dr Charlotte Grey, Principal Investigator, said:
“The aim of this research was to understand the role of community-led action during the pandemic. Specifically, to examine the enabling factors; the extent to which community-led action can address underlying determinants of inequalities in health; and how community-led action can be sustained and integrated into the health, third sector, and social support system.
“The report captures learning from those who responded to a survey of informal and formal volunteers across Wales, complemented by insights from recipients of support, volunteers, and leaders, collected through a series of interviews in two communities in South Wales. We also explored the potential of using social media (Twitter) data to identify levels of needs and support present in the community.”
Dr Oliver Davis, Associate Professor and Turing Fellow at Bristol Medical School, said:
“The nature of community-led action makes it difficult to measure with traditional data sources, but public posts on social media gave us user-generated information, so we could complement the insights from the communities’ experience with an understanding of community well-being in real time.“
Professor Alisha Davies, Head of Research & Evaluation in Public Health Wales, said:
“This research has informed a framework to enable and sustain informal volunteering and community-led action in response to future pandemics and societal shocks. These opportunities for action span across the pandemic response (i.e. preparedness, during the pandemic, and post - in recovery and beyond).”
The research identifies three key elements to enable and sustain community-led action in Wales. These were:
The data evidences how these findings can help to build resilient communities throughout Wales, able to respond to on-going impact in recovery from the pandemic (both for whole communities and for the already disadvantaged) and to adapt to future crises (be that infectious disease, climate change, or economic challenges).
Resilient communities, able to respond and recover from future emergencies are important for population health, both in Wales and internationally. Improved understanding of community-led action across Wales, how these valuable assets are leveraged in local responses to the pandemic, and the extent to which this can contribute to health equity will help policy makers understand how to better understand how to better support less resilient communities and prepare for future adverse events.
This work has been funded by the Health Foundation, as part of the COVID-19 Research Programme. The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.