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Our Mission

 

The concept of ‘Compassionate Communities’

In the 1980s the World Health Organization developed the idea of ‘Healthy Cities’. These were whole communities - sometimes actual cities and sometimes simply a linked group of villages and towns - that decided to promote the health and well-being of their communities in a systematic and holistic way. Of course, most communities have good primary care services - GPs, dentists, school counselors, community nurses, and public health inspectors. And most communities, have specialist health services too - hospitals, specialist physicians, pain clinics, rehabilitation centres and services that supply specialist technological aids and supports. Supporting these ‘direct services’ were government ‘health promotion’ messages to educate people about the dangers of smoking, excessive drinking, asbestos or UV exposure, or unprotected sex. More positively, people are encouraged to use seat belts, child restraints, bicycle helmets, more vegetables and fruit in their diets, or more time with their own families to enhance their own health and well being.

 

A vital role for everyone

Healthy Cities were a new concept of community where not just health professionals but EVERYONE was encouraged to take responsibility for health. Churches and temples, schools, trade unions and workplaces, clubs and pubs, museums and art galleries, local newspapers, radio or TV, shops on the high street, or the local emergency services were all to be involved. Schools, for example, would develop healthy eating and exercise programs, local councils would work with churches or museums to reduce the isolation and loneliness of the aged, disabled or otherwise housebound, workplaces would organize fun runs, visits to local hospitals or community health centres. Everyone would play a small but important role in reminding everyone else that health and well being are (1) serious and ongoing topics for life; and (2) health was more than simply seeing a health professional when you got in to trouble, and (3) everyone - children and adults, workers of every stripe, the retired or the disabled, and the sick and the well - had a role to play in their own and everyone’s else’s health and well being.

 

Developing a vision

In 2005, Professor Allan Kellehear - an Australian public health academic - reminded people that not only was health everyone’s responsibility but also death, dying and end of life care. His vision of ‘Compassionate Cities’ appeared in the book of the same name (Compassionate Cities: Public health and end of life care, Routledge, London 2005). Professor Kellehear argued that end of life care wasn’t simply hospice and palliative care services, or even confined to care of older people and the bereaved. In fact, end of life care is everyone’s business. Schools can develop policies for death and dying for their students, staff and parents. Workplaces have a role to play in caring for their workers. Churches and temples can work with newspapers to promote an understanding of ageing and dying.

When many people think of end of life care, they often think about dying of cancer. But, in fact, end of life care is not only about dying from a terminal illness but also living with a life-threatening illness, living with caring for someone who is chronically and seriously ill, living with loss especially (but not only) from bereavement, caring for someone with dementia, and remembering too that those who work in end of life care - the hospice workers, funeral workers, police and ambulance personnel, or veterinarians and counselors, also need our often taken-for-granted support. Compassionate communities are communities that ask: how can we - as cab drivers, teachers or students, shop owners, clerks and waiters, flight attendants, academics or housewives - how can any of us help in end of life care?

 

Become involved

The answer is to become involved, just for a few hours each week or even each month, in community activities as diverse as short story writing, school policy development, memorial rallies for lost pets, volunteering to companion or provide short relief to the isolated or housebound carer, or put the local police together with the local hospice to talk about their common and different experiences of caring for others. These are among the 100s of ways you can help as part of an ever growing compassionate community.

Sandwell Compassionate Communities - End Of Life Care & Support - Coping with Death and Dying - Palliative Care

Murray HallBridgesNHS West MidlandsSandwell NHS

 

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