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In January I was welcomed into the new role of heading up the Collaboration for Wellbeing and Health [update: now named Health Equals]. The Collaboration is a new Health Foundation funded initiative focused on developing a public conversation about how health and wellbeing are shaped and influencing national policy to prioritise health. This is of course a moment of standing (or wobbling?) on the shoulders of giants, not least the team who have developed the work to date and our nine founding collaborators (see below). Numerous policy researchers and advocates have also worked extensively to explain there is so much more to health than the absence of illness. Health is not a level playing field, but we can do something to change that.

Cathy Irving’s previous blog documents our overall strategic approach and campaigning intent. My job now is to help make this vision a reality, maximise the policy calls and with a genuine collaborative effort, turn it into change that brings to bear public influence. I hope you will join us on this journey, in whatever form that takes.

As an environmental campaigner by background, I would like to explain why this subject holds such interest for me, and why I feel it should appeal to others who work on the ‘periphery’ of the health inequalities debate. I am certainly not a health inequalities campaigner, and I stumble over some of the concepts and language used. However, I am passionate about improving everyone's opportunities to live a long, healthy life, and I’m keen to provide clarity and agency so we can influence those who hold power over this. In recruiting an environmentalist, the Collaboration has taken a step towards encouraging someone into the fold who doesn’t speak the language and is therefore an example of the very bridges that need to be built.

It is obvious we need more evidence-based campaigning and campaigners in this space from various backgrounds and disciplines. This push must come from all sectors that have a role in supporting good health and reducing inequalities. We need to bring everyone out of the ‘periphery’ and into the centre of the movement for change on health inequalities. It is precisely because good health relies on so many different things (housing, work, environment, to name but a few) that we need those who are not experts in health inequalities, but that have a stake in these other things, to be part of the conversation.

There is lots to be gained in terms of win-wins across sectors if we get it right, from the environment, to housing, to the world of work and education. I really feel that, for example, if the case for the restoration of nature was more strongly centred on the health and wellbeing benefits, then we would have a greater fighting chance of halting the current ecological crisis. This has so far proven an unstoppable landslide into wildlife oblivion, and ultimately will become a human crisis.

So why do we need to campaign?

What interests me about the health inequalities debate is that as someone who cares about better opportunities to be healthy, I previously knew little about the compelling data telling us what needs to be in place to underpin a healthy society. I also lacked awareness of how unequal our experience of good health is across the UK today. Why didn’t I know about the extent of the problem? I had to wade through a lot of jargon to know what I do now about the conditions that give or take from health and where the responsibility for this lies. I had an inkling that much of this was baked in early, probably not as linked to individual agency as I thought, but not on the scale the evidence shows.

My takeaway? Few outside the health sector are aware of or really understand the evidence base that sets out what supports a healthy society, even if they are interested or could be interested in this conversation. This makes the debate niche and inaccessible – and prevents it from reaching the wide array of people who have a role in making change. This is a problem!

In the Collaboration, we are starting to address this problem. We need partners and we need the public to understand these issues and how to improve them; we won't succeed otherwise. But these are complex challenges and concepts, and we now need to build much more understanding and demand for change.

We are looking for new members to join the Collaboration from diverse areas, to bolster our insights and strategy, and to work on solutions together. Membership of the Collaboration will not be for everyone – but it might be for you. If so, send me an email.

We also need allies and partners who we can deliver campaigns with, and we need people to help spread the word and join a community who want to see change. We will run public campaigns this year, to bring to life for people how their health is linked to issues they may not currently recognise, but where change is possible (the quality of the air we breathe is a good example).

We are also expanding our team to step up to the challenge ahead. Currently, we are a team of six with skills that include campaigning, communications, engagement and ‘organising’ change (if such a thing is possible!). Over the next month, we are recruiting for three critical roles in our team, to deepen our policy, public affairs, media and communications expertise. If one of these roles sounds like you, we really encourage you to apply – or please spread the word to people you think might be a great asset to our team. It’s worth reiterating that you do not need to be an expert in health inequalities – we are looking to build a team that is great at turning a complex policy area into meaningful change, through compelling campaigns and influencing. We want people who can help us see this longstanding challenge in a new way – and help others understand it too.

Carrie Hume (@CarrieAHume) is Head of Collaboration for Wellbeing and Health.

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