IGN learnings

Community power in population health strategies

Pritpal S Tamber

Dr. Pritpal S Tamber

Researcher and consultant in community power and health.

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It is estimated that up to 80% of our health comes from our social conditions. These conditions are not accidental. They are a consequence of the policies that governments adopt and implement. This makes policy change key to improving health outcomes, which is ultimately a political process.

The system of government in the UK is democratic, but this is more than just voting. There is also the legislature, the judiciary and the administration. Policy is often regarded as the preserve of professionals, such as politicians, lawyers, judges, civil servants or public servants. However, the continued presence of social conditions that are not conducive to health and, indeed, cause sickness, illustrates that the process is clearly not working, at least not in terms of population-level health improvement.

Communities can influence the policies that shape their social conditions through the four arenas of democracy. To do that, they need power.

Following our work with the Kings Fund on how the health and care system can better respond to the causes and impacts of poverty, this session brought together NHS and local government leaders to discuss what community power is, why it matters to health and how public systems can help build and be receptive to it. The session was led by Dr. Pritpal S Tamber, the former Physician Editor of TEDMED, now a researcher and consultant in community power and health.

Key learnings

  • Get to know local organisations. The health system can already plug into a community’s power building process.
  • Respond to the community’s agenda. Help them to understand the health aspect of a problem, work within the system and drive action.
  • Be intentional with engagement. Enhance the skills, confidence and sense of power of individuals, and build trust, social cohesion and sense of combined power.
  • Use community power responsibly. Ensure that if you’re taking, think what you can give back.
  • Think long-term. Some outcomes will be immediate, but structural and system change is long-term work.


Community power in population health strategies

Presentation by Dr. Pritpal S Tamber

4 MB  |  presentation