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Hazel Stuteley talk

Hazel Stuteley portrait We’re all on the same journeys. Hazel will be 101 in 2050!

And she has ditched her script. This is Hazel unplugged!

Why are we in the UK so bad at preventing the poor health of the poor? Why have billions of £££ of investment in poor communities not made a jot of difference?

Hazel will tell us about what makes a difference – not about £££, but about connecting and listening.

She was a community midwife in Lewisham, and saw all the health inequalities between the bottom and top of the hill. When she moved to Cornwall, she saw some of the worst child-protection challenges ever. Cornwall is the poorest county in the country. She saw all sorts of young people born into poverty.

In the 1990s, the Beacon estate in Falmouth was the poorest ward in the poorest county. As a nurse she had to have police protection there. But she saw a complete rebirth. Hazel and another health visitor couldn’t cope with illness and depression, and knew something had to change. Police and other authorities had abandoned the communities, so they all had to be reconnected. The residents had to lead, and the agencies were invited to join. Three did – police, local authority and education. Five residents were the leaders, the ‘famous five’. They were connected, and over four years magic started to happen. While the residents and agencies were meeting, the community started to come together, and managed to raise £2.2m money in various ways. (Pig racing was nothing to do with the police!) As a result, Hazel and other community visitors could do their jobs again. There was a 50% drop in crime and a 70% drop in unemployment. Boys education retainment went up 100% because post-natal depression was brought down. Asthma was down 50%. Gardens were transformed. People started to feel good about themselves: “We thought we were doing up our houses, but we were doing up our lives.”

This is the power of listening in connecting communities. The community will tell you what they need to heal. For example, the TR14ers in Camborne said they wanted to dance, and the power of dance to heal Camborne was extraordinary. Never ever give up. Do something small, but something wonderful will happen.

Fab talk, loads of laughter, another standing ovation, cheers.

More Information

Connecting Communities C2 Programme within the Health Complexity Group at the University of Exeter

Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, on “Linking mental health indicators to promoting mental health in early life”