Public health experts have called on local authorities to develop proactive strategies to strengthen community spirit in order to tackle health inequalities.
A new report by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) and Locality warns that the pandemic has a negative impact on social relationships.
A survey conducted for the report found more than half (57%) of people reported feeling anxious about socialising with people outside their household, and the proportion was even higher – at 80% – amongst those with disabilities.
Three quarters (75%) of people said they did not trust others to observe the guidance on social distancing and handwashing.
And three in 10 people said that lockdown’s effect on their mental health had negatively impacted their relationships, and this rose to over half of respondents with mental health conditions.
The RSPH has therefore called on councils to investment in green spaces, like community gardens and play parks, and funding for organisations to run activities in those spaces which promote health and wellbeing.
It has also recommended local authorities and third-sector organisations set up community hubs providing activities and services focused on health and wellbeing.
‘Local community organisations, mutual aid groups and considerate neighbours have made incredible efforts to meet the needs of people in their community, and we have seen, partly as a result, a growing sense of belonging to, and pride in, their area,’ said RSPH chief executive, Christina Marriott.
‘But we want to make sure that the higher quality of life and the better mental and physical health brought about by being part of a caring and cohesive neighbourhood is more fairly distributed.
‘Building community spirit is an important step towards reducing the health inequality gap,’ she added.
‘So, it is vital that national and local governments, third sector organisations and community leaders develop strategies to ensure that the places where we live are supportive and welcoming places for all. We hope our Community Spirit Framework and toolkit helps local decision-makers begin that process.’
Photo Credit -Pixabay