Leading the way in community health

Aileen McGuinness, Seamus Ward and Susan Harkin, from the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, pictured outside the Gasyard Centre.
Aileen McGuinness, Seamus Ward and Susan Harkin, from the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum, pictured outside the Gasyard Centre.

The Bogside & Brandywell Health Forum (B&BHF), based in the Gasyard Centre and Long Tower Youth Club, has long been recognised for its work delivering health improvement in the Bogside and Brandywell areas of Derry.

And, as the organisation approaches its 20th birthday, the B&BHF has more reasons to celebrate than most.

Indeed, over the past 12 months the Health Forum, one of Derry’s very own community groups, has secured in excess of £4 million in funding - a fact unheard of for an organisation of its size.

Better still, the Health Forum is leading a major new innovative health project, financially supported by the Big Lottery Fund, labelled ‘Social Prescribing.’

The project is one of the first, and certainly the biggest, of its kind in the world and the eyes of a large number of interested organisations continue to monitor the development of this new local project.

The B&BHF now takes the service it has created to work with other communities across the North of Ireland and Scotland allowing GPs to refer patients to community programmes in an effort to improve their health.

And if that wasn’t enough, the Health Forum has also received an investment of over £300k from CAWT INTERREG, to create health and wellbeing hubs across the city plus an award of £500k to work with St. Joseph’s Boys’ School and St. Cecilia’s College to support the resilience of young people and their mental health.

Seamus Ward, General Manager of the Health Forum, was adamant that the success had been fashioned by the hard work of directors, staff, volunteers and all their partners.

“We’ve worked really hard to build our reputation and deliver to the people that need it most,” said Seamus. “The staff care deeply about what we do and we commit time and resources to support our volunteers. Everyone is committed to reducing health inequalities in our society,” he maintained.

So what does 2019 hold in store? According to Seamus, the New Year will see the Health Forum start doing what matters most.

“Receiving the funding was great, but the hard work stars now. We move into 2019 reflecting on the 20 years that has brought us to this point; but looking forward and determined to be the best we can be, to work towards a system where we support those people who need it most. We want to promote, as much we can, the benefits of a social model of care where we can help ourselves and our relatives, friends and neighbours live healthier, happier lives. The support we have from all our partners and participants means alot but, even better, we are flying the flag for Derry and will do the best we can so that others will sit up and take notice of our city.”

Over the next three weeks, the ‘Journal’ has agreed to publish a series of stories examining some of the success stories which have emanated from the Health Forum and the work it does across the local community.