Our Scottish members held a 2nd UK PHA in Edinburgh in 2014 with over 100 attendees joining. Our coordinating group member Ruth Stern wrote the following after attending the inspiring event:
The overall theme of the assembly was ‘Austerity’ and Social Exclusion, and the programme comprised plenary presentations interspersed with workshop discussions across three, interlinking, parallel streams: austerity and health; social exclusion and vulnerability; and environmental justice and occupational health.
The overall focus of the three days was what communities can and are doing to challenge the status quo, using story telling, football, art, drama and other creative approaches to inform, inspire and challenge. This was combined with a strong call for solidarity, and for researchers, health workers and other professionals to recognise and validate community led, ‘bottom up’ experiences, instead of keeping only to the traditional, professionally led approaches. The need to respect people’s dignity and to recognise the social and emotional impacts of austerity in their lives was another.
There was so much to learn and be inspired by. Among the highlights were:
- An introductory political and economic context set by David Woodward, an independent writer and researcher on development issues and a regular PHM contributor
- A plenary presentation by Cathy McCormack on her life growing up in Glasgow, with her passionate plea for the recognition of how socially and emotionally undermining poverty and social exclusion can be – what she called WMDs (Weapons of Mass Demoralisation)
- Presentations by Street Soccer, Scotland who run regular free drop in sessions where adults and children play football and to coach others, and through that, discuss their experience of daily life, such as being homeless, unemployed or on drugs, and the challenges they faced. Two of the presenters, now working with the scheme and playing football for Scotland talked about the difference this has made to their lives and that of others in the scheme.
- FACK (Families Against Corporate Killers), a campaigning group comprising people living with the impact of family deaths due to inadequate health and safety in industrial settings, including the brother of the presenter
- The Amaan project run by the Mental Health Foundation, which pilots community conversations alongside training for professionals who come into contact with asylum seeking and refugee women in Scotland.
And from south of the border, examples included:
- Nothinghamshire Refugee Forum that aims to ensure that newly dispersed asylum seekers and refugees are enabled to access health services, and
- Pathway, a London based model of integrated healthcare for single homeless people and rough sleepers, that puts the patient at the centre of their own care pathway and works to transform health outcomes for one of the most vulnerable and deprived groups.