The health profile of Northumberland is influenced by a range of factors, not least its age profile. Over half of Northumberland residents are aged over 45, and so are likely to have a higher prevalence of certain health conditions. On the positive side, death rates from the “big killers” like cancer and circulatory disease are falling. On the other hand the benefits of improved health are not equally shared, and there is a significant difference in life expectancy between rich and poor areas of the county.
Improving health in Northumberland, and reducing health inequalities, is an area where the voluntary sector and philanthropic funding can make a significant difference. The voluntary sector is good at engaging people and encouraging improvements in health behaviours, complementing the work of health professionals. In Northumberland this includes providing information on healthy living; support for participation in sport, exercise and healthy eating to address obesity in children and adults; assistance around issues like drink and drug use and help for those with disabilities and mental health problems. The importance of philanthropic funding in maintaining such activities is likely to have increased since our last report.
As a new scouting unit, Barrasford Scout Group required funding to purchase camping equipment and built a poly tunnel to create a growing space. Victoria Binovec of Barrasford Scout Group said:
“A grant of £3,000 from the Community Foundation allowed us to purchase gardening equipment and plants. We teach our scouts gardening skills to help older residents maintain their allotments, and with our own poly tunnel we can grow nutritional foods and sell produce to the local community.”
The grant will not only create a sustainable gardening project to increase revenue for the scouts, but will create stronger communities by allowing young people to assist older people to maintain their gardens.
Through the Watkin Family Fund, Jill Watkin addresses issues of isolation, and mental health in Northumberland.
“The Watkin Family Fund aims to make a difference in our region by supporting vulnerable groups of people to overcome isolation, increase wellbeing and support issues around mental health. Philanthropy plays an important role here by empowering organisations, and people to do good and make a difference. This can be through raising the importance of a healthy diet amongst young people through to providing sport and exercise for the elderly. Many people in our county live in isolation, and by empowering more people and services we can create further opportunities to support those most at need.”