• Project run by the Royal Society for Public Health in partnership with Locality, a national network supporting community organisations.
  • Part of our programme to take action on the wider determinants of health – the political, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors which shape the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age. This project focused on the role of community spirit and its impact on health and wellbeing.
  • A ‘Community Spirit Level’ has been produced and tested with six communities across the UK. The evidence-based tool can help communities measure and improve their community spirit.
  • Project ran from December 2018 to January 2021.

The communities that we live in and our social networks have a significant impact on our health and on health inequalities. In more deprived communities, almost half of people report severe lack of social networks and support, and there are high levels of chronic loneliness; making people who are at greater risk less resilient to the health effects of social and economic disadvantage. 

There is evidence that a strong community spirit can help address health inequalities. In areas affected by poverty and other forms of social disadvantage, strong and supportive relationships have been found to be a buffer against worse health outcomes.

This project explored how community spirit can be raised and improved in areas where it is needed the most. Through reviewing the existing literature and gathering the views of experts and members of the public, and the experiences and ideas of community organisations, a framework was created: the Community Spirit Level. This provides communities and those working with them (such as grassroots organisations, anchor institutions, NHS teams and local authorities) with practical, step-by-step guidance and inspiration about how they can reflect on, and improve, community spirit in a systematic way.

The project team worked with six communities across the UK to test the Community Spirit Level. This work began in 2018 and continued as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The case studies that feature in the Community Spirit Level demonstrate why community spirit is an essential part of people’s lives, particularly for collective resilience in the face of crises such as COVID-19. For example, a community organisation in Sheffield found through using the toolkit what they would like to see in the community once the pandemic passes, and found that residents appreciated the stronger community relationships built up during the lockdown, and they now have a better idea of how it can be sustained.

The team will continue to promote the framework with other organisations and are confident that the learnings from this project will help improve community wellbeing as the country moves towards recovery.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Nelly Araujo, Development Manager, Royal Society for Public Health.

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Taking action on the social determinants of health

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