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Transforming the health of the country

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

With the nation facing public health challenges of epidemic proportions, forward-thinking local authorities are invited to apply to the Design in the Public Sector Programme, delivered in partnership with the LGA, writes Sarah Weir OBE, chief executive of Design Council.

Cllr Paul Bettison OBE, chairman of the LGA Improvement and Innovation Board, recognises there is a growing movement of design thinking and innovation in public services: “The LGA is keen to equip more councils with the necessary tools and knowledge. Public health is an area within local government being asked to deliver prevention strategies and improve the health of our communities, and we believe an injection of design thinking will help them to achieve this.”          

Design Council is a leader in applying design thinking to help transform services in communities across the country. Using its Framework for Innovation and globally recognised ‘double diamond model,’ the programme brings partners and communities together to use the design process to explore and address key public health challenges.

Local authorities looking to tackle issues such as reducing STIs, smoking in pregnancy and after childbirth, and drug and alcohol treatment pathways can sign up to the programme. Design Council experts will support local authorities and their health partners to collaboratively explore their challenges and identify opportunities to deliver positive change.

Teams selected onto the programme benefit from a series of dynamic workshops, expert coaching and the support to work in creative and collaborative ways. During the programme, participants build their skills and capabilities whilst generating insights and evidence to shape new opportunities and deliver improved health outcomes.

Matt Clack, public health head of services at Hackney Council, participated in the programme last summer to improve the health of tenants in private housing. He said: “The workshops helped us to think about lived experience. We also started to incorporate systems thinking – understanding all the different services and pressures that impact on people beyond just their individual choices.”

To date, Design Council’s tools and methods have been successfully adopted by over 60 local authorities. Over the past year, public health challenges addressed through the programme have included:

  • Improving patient’s health before surgery in Calderdale;
  • Reducing unnecessary A&E visits by the over-75s in Epping Forest;
  • Addressing high rates of teenage pregnancy amongst vulnerable groups in West Sussex;
  • Building social connection and community-led services to reduce social isolation in Stockport.

Design is increasingly being recognised as a critical tool to help transform services in communities across the globe. With increasing pressures on public health services and public sector staff, there is no better time for public health professionals to sign up to our Design in the Public Sector programme. Whatever the challenge, design experts will help professionals to explore the issues impacting them and identify new ideas and opportunities to bring about positive change.

Local authorities across the country are invited to apply by 21 September. For teams in the north, the programme will be delivered in Leeds and at Design Council’s office in London for those in the south.


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