Health Champions

Social Perscribing

About Health Champions in the North East and North Cumbria

The use of Health Champion programmes really gained traction during the Covid-19 pandemic with many local authority areas building on established champion programmes or developing a specific Covid Champion approach to engage local communities, feed in valuable insight and ensure key public health messages were received by all.

The legacy from these programmes has supported the use of champions to promote a wide range of health messages across North East and North Cumbria.  The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities have worked alongside VONNE to establish a regional programme – engaging with, and taking learning from local champion programmes and exploring further opportunities to promote the use of champion approaches.

Sharing learning

A learning set has been developed to capture learning from NENC programmes.  It is intended that this resource will:

  • Capture and share learning, resources and ways of working
  • Inform the development of future champion led programmes of work
  • Act as a live resource to build and collate the evidence base around this work
  • Demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of utilising a champion approach

A huge thanks to all local areas for sharing their learning!

You can view or download the learning set here. For further information contact Becky James, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Office for Health Improvement and Disparities: 

Health Champions Development Fund

Five organisations from across the North East and North Cumbria have been successful in securing grants from the 2024/25 Health Champions Development Fund.  

The funding, provided by the Integrated Care Board (ICB), will be being used at neighbourhood and place level to support local partnerships between Local Authority Health Champion programmes and VCSE sector organisations working together to reach communities - with a particular focus on Core20Plus5 priorities. The aim of the investment is to develop more sustainable Health Champion projects, building on community assets, increasing capacity of programmes that respond to local needs, and further extending their reach into communities. 

A graphic of a purple coin purse

Grants have been awarded to the following local partnership projects:

Gateshead Local Authority Public Health team will work with a range of community partners to increase Health Champion activity in response to local needs, focussing on Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD).

International Community Organisation of Sunderland (ICOS) will work with Sunderland City Council to expand the Health Champions network focussing on women and ethnically minoritised communities.

Tyne Housing Association will help reduce health inequalities amongst people experiencing homelessness, supporting them to make positive lifestyle changes and increase access to key health messaging and services.

The Pioneering Care Partnership project’s aim is to understand the barriers that migrant communities (including refugees and asylum seekers) face when accessing health and/or other public services in Stockton-on Tees.

Healthworks will work with communities and local authorities across Newcastle and Gateshead to raise awareness of children’s oral health.

“Health champions provide a vital link into communities, bringing key expertise and insight and supporting access to health services sometimes from the most marginalised communities, having a direct effect on tackling healthcare inequalities in our region.  We have some great examples of champion led approaches across the North East – recognising and building on our community assets.” 

Becky James, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Office for Health Improvement & Disparities.

“We have to change the nature of our conversation and be willing to listen to what our communities are telling us matters to them. Health Champions are vital to changing that conversation.” 

Dr Guy Pilkington, Chair of the NENC Prevention Board and Healthy Communities and Social Prescribing Steering Group.

This video shares the voices of Debbie, Louis and Robin - volunteer Health Champions from Gateshead - and highlights the positive impact of the programme for people in their local communities and on the Health Champions themselves. 

What’s been happening?

Bringing the Health Champions Model to Middlesbrough

In January our first awareness event took place at Acklam Green Centre, to help shape the direction of the programme. It gave programme leads a chance to explain how the Middlesbrough Health Champion approach is tackling local Core20Plus5 healthcare inequalities, looking at new opportunities and connections within the community. 

Speakers included Becky James (OHID), Katrina Jackson (Public Health Middlesbrough), Craig Robson (Making Every Contact Count), Bini Araia (Middlesbrough Health Champion) and Lindsey Hall (VONNE). 

A huge emphasis on the day was working with the delegates to drive the programme forward and strengthen local connections so we can continue to develop our work with key community representatives, local and regional strategic teams and VCSE sector partners, and to ensure we co-produce our approach with our Health Champions Network within Middlesbrough.

Some extremely useful information and links came out of the event and really showed the passion Middlesbrough has for community asset-based approaches.

Exploring more opportunities across our region

In March we hosted an interactive workshop event at the Durham Centre to share learning and best practice and look at opportunities around the Health Champions project. Over 65 People attended with great representation from the VCSE sector and the NHS across the region.  

There were lively discussions on topics including learning from Covid and the role of Community Champions, utilising Make Every Contact Count (MECC), and engaging ethnically diverse communities through the Health Champion approach.

Richard Boggie, VONNE’s Health Partnerships Strategic Manager, shared his reflections about the event themes and discussions in this blog