Oxford City Council has launched a programme to better understand vaccine uptake and the underlying health inequality in Oxford.
Ten of Oxford’s 83 neighbourhood areas are amongst the most deprived in the country. In these areas people die up to a decade earlier than those living in the wealthiest parts of the city.
There are many reasons for this inequality, but one is that people in more deprived areas of the city are less likely to engage with health services.
Over the last two years there has, for example, been a reluctance to take the COVID-19 vaccines amongst some Oxford residents, despite overwhelming evidence of their efficacy – and the fact one of the vaccines was created in Oxford.
Now the City Council is launching a new programme to better understand the reasons why some people have barriers to accessing local services, including health.
The aim of the project is to remove these barriers and make changes to services making them more accessible and inclusive.
The programme will see the City Council recruit volunteer Community Champions to listen to and capture the reasons why people are hesitant to engage.
The Community Champions will then work with the programme team – which includes City Council officers, Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health practitioners and colleagues from Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – to develop inclusive communications and practical solutions to improve engagement and access to services in Oxford.
The Champions will have the flexibility and autonomy to design their approach to best suit their community – whether that’s running a workshop with health colleagues, picnics in a nearby park, or having conversations on social media.
The aim is that the Champions will be a long-term voice for their communities.
They will receive training from the City Council before becoming a Community Champion, and will then have access to personal and professional training courses. The City Council will also cover out-of-pocket expenses.
It is hoped that the programme will bring together people from diverse communities and backgrounds to become Champions – creating a collective that may not have otherwise been able to work together to build strong local services and community cohesion.
The Community Champions programme is funded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in order to better understand the barriers communities have in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine.
The City Council has received permission from the Government to expand the scheme in Oxford so it looks at wider health inequalities and barriers to access.
Oxford City Council is working in partnership with Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS, and Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team on the programme.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy
The insight gathered from the Community Champions will complement the work already done with communities to support the development of the City Council’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Strategy.
The EDI Strategy, which was published this week, outlines how the City Council will work with communities in Oxford, how it will improve service delivery, demonstrate local leadership and become a more inclusive employer. The overall aim is to tackle inequality in Oxford.
The new approach follows extensive consultation with community groups, councillors and staff.
“The Community Champions programme will help us build more inclusive services in Oxford – one that better reflects and meets the needs of everyone in our city. Champions will help provide factual information to minimise the spread of misinformation and remove barriers to engaging. The learning from the programme will also constructively challenge how health services can and must develop more inclusive and community sensitive approaches to working with marginalised people and communities, one that reflects a long historical legacy of gaps in this area.”
Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities
For more information and to sign up to become a Community Champion, visit: www.oxford.gov.uk/community-champions.