Health as a Social Movement

‘Collectively and cumulatively [these actions] and others like them will help shift power to patients and citizens, strengthen communities, improve health and wellbeing, and – as a by-product – help moderate rising demands on the NHS’

Building on the agenda set out in the Five Year Forward View (published October 2014) in 2016, we launched a programme to support social movements in health and care.

Working with six new care model vanguards across England, this programme looked at effective ways of mobilising people in social movements that improve health and care outcomes and show a positive return on investment.


The programme aim was to:

  • Identify and develop exemplar social movements – creating real-world examples of communities mobilised for health and care
  • Demonstrate ‘what works’– using rigorous evaluation approaches
  • Support spread – enabling local areas to develop approaches that could be scaled or adapted and adopted in other communities.

Transformation funding was made available to support this work.

The following vanguards took part in this programme. These are diverse in terms of geography and type of vanguard and also provide a mix of types of social movement, including community wide and condition/cohort specific approaches.

  • Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (Acute Care Collaboration): worked across London with 32 CCGs and five major acute NHS Trusts plus their charities to kick-start a social movement toward workplace health and wellbeing. In this way the NHS community can act as a role-model for generating wider change.
  • Wellbeing Erewash – Your Life Your Way (Multispecialty Community Provider): has an aspiration that by 2020, its communities will have sustainable self-support systems and mechanisms in place which will empower them to make healthy and sometimes life changing choices.
  • Stockport Together (Multispecialty Community Provider): aimed to support social movements in Stockport with Oldham and Tameside boroughs and across GM, building on its ambitious People Powered Health programme to `hard-wire’ social action into a transformed health and care system. It built co-production with people living with long term health conditions and aimed to develop understanding in how to nurture emotional wellbeing through a social movement and arts approach.
  • Accountable Cancer Network (Acute Care Collaboration): working through the GM Cancer Vanguard aimed to apply at scale a multi-faceted approach to nurture a social movement across the entire cancer prevention spectrum which is ultimately self-sustaining.
  • Better Care Together (Morecambe Bay Health Community) (Integrated Primary and Acute Care System): aimed for communities mobilised at scale for health and wellbeing and integrated into the local leadership structure; and a social movement across the health providers around population health thinking – moving from “patient to citizen” and “organisation to system”.
  • Airedale and Partners (Enhanced Health in Care Homes): aimed to mobilise businesses, organisations, voluntary groups and individuals, young and old, to commit and act to improve the lives of people affected by dementia in care homes

Three national partners: New Economics Foundation (NEF), Nesta and Royal Society of Arts (RSA) were initially appointed to provide the overarching learning, development, support and evaluation. NEF and RSA continued to participate in the continuing programme, which completed at the end of March 2018.

Find out more

There is more information on the programme on the RSA’s Health as a Social Movement web pages

The final report: Health as a Social Movement: theory into practice draws together the learning from the programme into a series of features which characterize a successful social movement.

If you have any questions about the programme, please email