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Introducing the Winners of the Reimagining Community Health Challenge

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COVID-19 has proven why we need hyperlocal community health models that connect people together and empower them to become more actively involved in their own health and well-being. Community health models challenge the way that healthcare is approached, delivered and financed: from a reactive system that waits for people to get sick and seek care, to an active system where health is valued, nurtured and incentivized. 

This was the shared vision that brought Ashoka and Johnson & Johnson Foundation together to launch the Reimagining Community Health challenge—the first Europe-wide challenge to find and celebrate entrepreneurs improving health outcomes within their communities. 

The challenge was developed as one of a number of initiatives of the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation supporting new community health models across Europe, and as part of its commitment to support and champion at least one million nurses, midwives and community health workers by 2030. 

An expert judge panel reviewed and selected the eight worthy winners out of 136 applications received. Read on to learn more about each of the winning initiatives and the work they are doing in tackling health challenges in their communities.

Institute for Positive Health, The Netherlands 

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The Institute for Positive Health was designed to support the shift from a curative to a preventative model of care, and help to reduce costs and increase resilience. 

It focuses on two areas: firstly, healthcare professionals are trained to have an alternative ‘Positive Health’ conversation with their patients. Secondly, local residents are challenged to live healthier lives and to take the initiative to set up projects to support their, and their neighbors’, well-being. 

“The Dutch Government included Positive Health as part of its vision of health in its National Policy Document on Public Health 2020-24. This is an important step towards the concept becoming mainstream, or even the norm.” - Karolien van den Brekel, General Practitioner, Positive Health

 MedGezel Humanizing Healthcare, The Netherlands

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MedGezel is an educational program designed to teach medical students to act as medical ‘coaches’ for their patients to ensure patients truly understand the medical information provided to them. As well as empowering patients and healthcare workers, this program is contributing to person-centered care and boosting job satisfaction.

“90% of the patients who participated in our first study were enthusiastic about the experience and 100% would recommend a MedGezel to other patients. Our vision is to support a new generation of doctors to train in personal leadership, compassionate care and medical coaching so that patients are empowered to take responsibility for their own healthcare process.” - Giliam Kuijpers, Founder, MedGezel

The Inspire Service, UK 

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According to research by UNICEF, an estimated 13% of children and young people aged 10-19 are living with a diagnosed mental health problem, brought on by risk factors like child poverty, peer pressure and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Inspire Service by Wellbeing Enterprises works to identify and address the root 'social causes' of mental health issues. By tackling bottlenecks in clinical services caused by the many young people waiting for mental health support, Inspire’s capacity-building approach aims to get everyone the help they need at the time they need it.

“Our ambition is to expand the Inspire Service model across the UK, as well as packaging the model into a ‘how to’ guide to support organizations to set up their own Inspire-esque provisions, bespoke to their community needs. Ultimately, we want to support everyone to live happier, healthier, long lives.” - Mark Swift, Founder, Wellbeing Enterprises

Creative Minds, UK

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Many people with mental and physical health issues suffer from loneliness and social isolation, which in turn can affect personal resilience, confidence, self-esteem and positivity. Creative Minds is an initiative designed to help those affected by ill health to use creativity to support their own well-being.

Working with over 120 creative partners, Creative Minds develops and delivers projects which focus on the relationship between arts, sports, recreation, leisure and health in the context of building healthy resilient people and communities. Examples include a weekly drop-in English-conversation and drawing club for asylum seekers and refugees; a music-making for theater project aimed at young people with learning disabilities and/or autism; and climbing sessions with opportunities to meet new people and have fun.

 “Before the pandemic, on average people who had participated in the activities were reporting a 30-40% improvement in their well-being. Our ambition is to scale up operations by 100% over the next 3-5 years to increase the development and delivery of our projects. We would like to develop new projects with an emphasis on prevention, targeting people on waiting lists and those who are just under the threshold for receiving services.” - Phil Walters, Strategic Lead, Creative Minds

Healthy Werra-Meissner-District, Germany

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The Healthy Werra-Meissner-District is based on the idea of reversing the incentives in the healthcare system, towards a system in which keeping people healthy is rewarded. The network specializes in developing prevention programs like health-promoting online courses, public health campaigns (e.g., 8,000 steps per day campaign), courses for informal caregivers, and promoting health in the workplace. This work helps patients to be more active in managing their own health and to make well-informed decisions.

“Our work has led directly to a reduction in the cost per person of those people with health insurance in the region, with the majority of savings based on reducing costs for hospital cases and sickness benefit payments. The network now has over 1,100 members and 85 partners, and our goal is to gain at least 25,000 people as members of the network by 2027.” - Judith Strecker, Healthy Werra-Meissner-District

 PACCT, Belgium

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Refugees often have a greater than average risk of developing mental health issues, due to high levels of trauma and stress, and a wide range of obstacles that prevent them from accessing professional support. 

To help mental health professionals to better reach and serve this vulnerable population, Solentra developed a method known as ‘Psychiatry Assisting a Culturally Diverse Community in Creating Healing Ties’ – or PACCT. The PACCT method combines community psychology and transcultural psychiatry to make specialized mental healthcare more accessible for those with a refugee or migrant background. As well as offering consultations, supervision and training to build capacity for health workers, Solentra psychologists also make themselves available to work directly with individuals and families who are struggling to access regular mental healthcare. 

“We have succeeded in putting the need for a culturally sensitive approach to mental healthcare on the political agenda and it is now recognized as a basic skill in healthcare. Moving forward, we want to roll out the PACCT methodology across Europe, and to use our expertise to make a positive contribution to the field of psychiatry in general.” - Geertrui Serneels, Founder, Solentra

La Cloche, France

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There are 300,000 homeless people in France, with 65% of them suffering from loneliness, as well as often struggling to access traditional physical and mental healthcare.

La Cloche aims to change the perception of homelessness by encouraging neighbors both with and without homes to support each other, create social ties and build truly inclusive neighborhoods. La Cloche also connects volunteer citizens with socio-medical professionals, enabling a complementary local approach to healthcare.

 La Cloche has actively changed perceptions around extreme exclusion by helping to break down stereotypes of homelessness. 78% of La Cloche’s volunteers feel more able to act against social exclusion thanks to La Cloche and 73% of volunteers experiencing poor housing feel less lonely. We want to continue being an inspiration and a resource for inclusive action at a local level and to build long-term strategic partnerships across the healthcare system and beyond.” - Margaux Gaillard, Managing Director, La Cloche

Helpper, Belgium

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A growing number of people around the world need regular assistance with small tasks but budgets, staff shortages and other restrictions mean that their options tend to be limited. Family and friends often step in, but many feel overburdened over time. In most cases, though, help can be found just around the corner.

Helpper is the online peer-to-peer platform connecting people who need help with everyday tasks with helpful neighbors. By creating a highly scalable platform to connect those in need with their neighbors, Helpper offers a more flexible solution for home assistance, and a more affordable solution for society. 

“Today, Helpper has a community of 25,000 ‘helppers’ and 5,000 ‘helppies’. What’s more, we have rolled out pilot projects with some of the major healthcare organizations in Belgium, as well as city councils, retirement homes, health insurance companies and more. The success of these collaborations will be an important growth lever for our initiative in the coming years. Ultimately, we want Helpper to be the go-to reference for affordable home care solutions.” - Virginie Dua, Executive Assistant, Helpper

The winning changemakers have each received €50,000 to put towards their projects, as well as the opportunity to embark on a journey with the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, and join a community of innovators reimagining what community health can look like in Europe. 

“We are thrilled to congratulate the eight winners, all of whom are working tirelessly to build a health system that aims to improve the well-being of their community and beyond,” says Marion Birnstill, Senior Manager of Global Community Impact, Johnson & Johnson. “We look forward to watching their journeys and learning from them in the years to come, as they continue shaping the future of health systems in Europe.”