Turning the tide on health inequalities for coastal communities

Jacqui Gibson, Programme Manager at Breaking Barriers Innovations discusses the Turning the Tide, an event held in Clacton-On-Sea exploring inequalities for coastal communities and how job opportunities can boost health.

Earlier this week, Breaking Barriers Innovations (BBI) delivered the Turning the Tide Summit in Clacton-On-Sea, a gathering of leaders from central and local government, NHS integrated care systems (ICBs), industry and voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSEs), all committed to addressing the unique challenges faced by coastal communities.

There was representation from across the country, with multiple coastal ICBs and local authorities eager to share their expertise and participate in dynamic discussions about what we can do differently to tackle the considerable health and employment inequalities which exist in coastal communities.

The day was facilitated by Ed Garratt OBE, Chief Officer for NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board that had initiated both the report and the ground-breaking Clacton Place Programme that formed the heart of the study.

The event was opened with an insightful speech from the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Chris Whitty who noted that the unique and interrelated challenges faced by coastal communities, such as quality of housing stock and transport provision require more nuanced and localised data.

Professor Bola Owolabi, Director of Healthcare Inequalities Improvement at NHS England, followed this with a speech emphasising that we can use the commonalities shared by coastal communities to find traction in creating solutions.

Turning Tides: Professor Bola Owolabi, Director of Health Inequalities, NHS England

Dr Jon Bashford shared his initial findings from the Turning the Tide research which calls to attention the generational timebomb that is economic inactivity and long-term sickness in younger people in our coastal communities. He highlighted that tackling this problem and others faced by coastal communities cannot be done so through systems working in isolation. Instead, an approach which functions beyond silos is needed. Local authorities, the NHS and other organisations must work in partnerships across their ecosystems using the four Is:

  • Insight – learning from across sectors including NHS, local government, DWP and VCSE
  • Intervention – providing pre-employment support including advocacy and access
  • Integration – maximising cross-sector employment opportunities
  • Influence – bringing together levelling up, education and transport alongside health as levers for practical change

Looking ahead to what comes next, it is important that the issues and recommendations raised in Turning the Tide are taken forward and transformed into tangible actions and outcomes. The creation of a Coastal Navigators Network, led at an integrated care board level with nominated place-based partners will be crucial in changing how we work together to achieve lasting change.

Looking at what has already been achieved through BBI programmes in Clacton and the Isle of Sheppey, where anchors have been brought together to share their knowledge, energy and commitment to their places, I am hopeful that the goals highlighted by this significant summit can be realised.

Turning the Tide is a call to action, asking systems to break down barriers and chart a course toward a brighter future for their coastal communities. No single sector can address these complex issues alone, and a united effort is essential to turn the tide in favor of progress and prosperity and health for all.

Photograph of Jacqui Gibson, Programme Manager at Breaking Barriers Innovations

Jacqui Gibson is a programme manager at Breaking Barriers Innovations (BBI) and leads a number of projects including the creation of innovative “more and different” career pathways across the UK and BBI’s pioneering Playbook Programme based in various locations including the Isle of Sheppey.

Jacqui previously led on a lived experience career pathway project, designing transformative pathways for people with convictions seeking leadership roles within the healthcare and justice sector.