NHS European Office

Visit to the London Well Communities


Joint Actions are a funding instrument under the third EU Health Programme 2014-2020, which are designed and financed by Member State authorities and the EU to address specific health priorities.
Reducing the burden of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental disorders is an EU priority and there is a wealth of knowledge within EU Member States on effective and efficient ways to prevent and manage these diseases. 

The EU Joint Action on Chronic diseases (JA-CHRODIS) - in which NHS England is a partner -  is a European collaboration that brings together over 70 associated and collaborating partners who work together to identify, validate, exchange and disseminate good practice on chronic diseases across EU Member States and to facilitate its uptake across local, regional and national borders. The focus is health promotion and primary prevention, as well as the management of diabetes and multi-morbid chronic conditions.

Sharing best practice

As part of the EU Joint Action on Chronic Diseases, the UK hosted a European health promotion study tour in June 2016 to the Well Communities programme in London, which brings together community-based practice from across the city in areas such as public health, social prescribing, diabetes and ante natal care, to share good practice in the field of chronic disease prevention.

Sharing of good practice and looking into its potential transferability to other regions is a key aspect of the JA-CHRODIS work, and the Well Communities (formerly known as Well London) team from the Institute for Health & Human Development at the University of East London (UEL) welcomed 17 visitors from 11 countries across Europe to showcase their work in this area, across the life cycle.  

According to Joint Action criteria, the London-based project has been rated high in six areas:

  • comprehensiveness of the intervention, 
  • equity of the approach, 
  • participation and empowerment, 
  • sustainability, 
  • governance and project management, 
  • potential for scalability and transferability. 

Expanding the project

Since 2007, with the support of the Big Lottery, Well London has been delivered in 33 of the capital’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. It has had over 36,000 participants, and evidence has shown that it has increased the knowledge, skills and confidence of people to work together to make a positive contribution to their community’s health and wellbeing. At a time of increasing financial constraints for the NHS, there is more interest than ever in preventative approaches that tackle the underlying causes of ill health.  

Although Phase 2 ended in 2015, there are plans for a third phase that will see Well Communities scale up and pilot programmes for the first time outside London. 

Study visit

The study visit began with an overview that included the history and development of the Well Communities model, the vision for the programme as a national framework, and the parallel programme of evaluation, research and development. 

Visitors were based in Stratford near the UEL campus and visited either the Aberfeldy Estate in Tower Hamlets or the Woolwich Dockyards Estate in Greenwich to experience first hand project activity on the ground and hear accounts of the experience gained by local volunteers and participants. Both boroughs have had successful Well London programmes and will be scaling up and embedding Well London as a mainstream way of working in phase 3.

On day two of the visit, the Greater London Authority, who were responsible for the overall management and coordination of Well London during phases one and two, hosted a knowledge exchange seminar at the iconic City Hall.  Participants heard about the role of London's Mayor in health, and the challenges and opportunities for a global city.  Participants reflected on the visit and shared learning, with discussions initiated by Professor Richard Watt and his team from University College London's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, who presented on some current public health research agendas and their implications across Europe. 

Although it was difficult to avoid the subject of Brexit, participants were enthusiastic about future collaboration and hope the visit marks the start of an ongoing relationship across Europe.

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