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19 February 2024
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London Celebrates Community Champions

London community representatives joined London’s healthcare systems partners at the House of Lords on 6 February, to celebrate the contribution of the London Community Champions Programme in keeping communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, hosted by Baroness Armstrong of Hilltop, was attended by over 100 people, including Community Champions, COVID-19 Champions and Vaccine Champions, along with representatives from the London Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH London), NHS England London, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Office for Health Inequaliteis and Disparities (OHID).

The unprecedented challenge of the pandemic required London’s healthcare system to respond in new ways, working with communities as never before. Between 2020-2022, thousands of Londoners signed up to be Community Champions, COVID-19 Champions and COVID-19 Vaccine Champions. Collaborating with local councils, NHS and voluntary and community sector organisations, they developed networks to share vital information about COVID-19 with their communities and support the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine programme.

The Champions programmes across London showed how important, and possible, it is for councils, the NHS and others to engage directly, openly and regularly with communities.

During the House of Lords event, community champions relayed their personal stories and highlights of their experiences as critical community links to disseminate information and enable people to access help and support.

Franklin Akpomuvwe and Saidat Oketunde, both Champions from the London Borough of Southwark, talked about how powerful it was to play a part in keeping their communities safe.

“We are both honoured to share our experiences. In the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, our community united through the London Community Champions Programme, becoming crucial pillars of support.

“Our stories shared during the event are reflections of our shared journey towards health, safety, and solidarity. As Community Champions, we remain committed to fostering resilience, connection, and well-being for Southwark and beyond.”

The event has stimulated more innovation. Sacha Rathmore, Community Ambassodors lead, London Borough of Hounslow said, “All the way home we (team of four ambassadors) spoke only of lots of new ideas to strengthen our programme and activity in the community, so thank you again.”

Ruth Hutt, Co-Chair of ADPH London and Director of Public Health at Lambeth Council said, “Champions were a crucial part of our response to COVID. It’s a privilege to celebrate how far we have come and to commit to ongoing dialogue with communities as we engage in important knowledge sharing and tackle on-going health inequalities.”

Martin Machray, Director – Improvement, Transformation and Partnerships, NHS England (London) said, “It’s terrific to be able to be together in person with so many community members who have played such a critical role in our shared ambition to achieve equal health outcomes for everyone in London.”

Anne Pordes Bowers, Community Champions Development Programme Director said,

“It was deeply moving to be able to be together in person given that our work started when it wasn’t clear whether that might happen again. We need to keep working to make sure Champions programmes remain at the heart of our efforts to reduce health inequalities.

“This new model of community engagement must continue to evolve if we are to achieve health outcomes and equity in the priorities and challenges facing us today. “

‘Transformations in Community Collaboration: lessons from COVID-19 Champions programmes across London’ tells the story of each COVID champions programme in London.

To find out more about the programme contact Anne Pordes Bowers or Ieva Smilingyte,

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