Everywhere I look at the moment I see the word wellbeing. In newspaper articles about lifestyles and life chances. In government surveys about how society is doing. In reports on public health policy. It seems to me we’re at last waking up to why wellbeing matters so much to our communities and our country as well as to each of us personally.
I’ve always been interested in the concept of wellbeing. In how it can help people become more confident and resilient and communities stronger and more productive. In fact wanting to do something useful to promote and support wellbeing – and ultimately our economy – is where the idea for our Ucan-do-it programmes came from. While I’m aware this could explain why I’m particularly attuned to noticing the word wellbeing, I think there’s more to it than that.
Last week my newspaper ran a piece on new research showing that high levels of TV viewing are having a negative effect on children’s wellbeing – and that those who get off the sofa and do more physical activity are more likely to concentrate better in school, enjoy good relationships with classmates and display lower levels of anxiety.
This focus on individual wellbeing is what we’re most used to and of course it is valid and very important. What’s striking though is that it’s in the context of communities that wellbeing is currently being talked about most often. Maybe it’s because we’ve been measuring national wellbeing for five years now that we’re starting to better understand its wider significance to society. Whatever the reason, doing something about it is now clearly a national priority.
As a blog posted last week by Gregor Henderson, Public Health England’s National Lead for Wellbeing and Mental Health, said, ‘It’s time to think about community wellbeing. Why? Supportive relationships, strong networks and our ability to engage with others, combined with having some influence on decisions that affect us, are all critical for our wellbeing.’
If more evidence were needed about how wellbeing has risen to the top of the UK’s policy agenda it’s surely the setting up a few months ago of the PHE-sponsored What Works Centre for Wellbeing, the first centre of its kind in the world. Dedicated to understanding what national and local governments, along with voluntary and business partners, can do to increase wellbeing, the Centre aims to evidence what works and enable better outcomes for health and happiness in communities, workplaces and more widely in society and GDP.
The Centre has put out a call to action, saying, ‘Now is the time for innovation and creativity, at scale and across the whole of society, in the pursuit of wellbeing’ and I hope it galvanises organisations across all sectors to work together to develop bold new ideas. Alongside doing our bit to make a positive and measurable difference through Ucan-do-it, we’ll also now be watching and learning from the Centre’s findings.