A cross-border European Union INTERREG VA funded partnership between the statutory sector and eight community-based hubs across Northern Ireland, the border counties of Ireland and the West of Scotland has made a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of 10,000 people.

The CAWT Community Health Synchronisation (CoH-Sync) project received grant funding, totalling €5.01 million, from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding has been provided by the Departments of Health, Northern Ireland and Ireland, with support from the Scottish government.

The project has been recognised as an exemplar cross-jurisdictional model for supporting population health and tackling health inequalities across the region.

Designed to help build the capacity of communities to deliver sustainable health and wellbeing programmes, the project supported the hubs to recruit and train 40 local Community Health Facilitators to deliver a diverse range of healthy lifestyle programmes to the residents within their communities. People in local communities were encouraged and supported to take control of their own health by making sustainable small changes.

The CoH-Sync project reflects national healthcare policy which places an emphasis on prevention of the risk factors associated with chronic illness, such as heart disease, cancers, respiratory illness and mental health conditions.

Each participant in the programme were supported by a Community Health Facilitator to develop and action a personalised Health and Wellbeing Plan which enable them to take health into their own hands and identify areas in their lifestyle which needed to be modified in order to improve their overall health status. Participants engaged in activities to improve their health and wellbeing.

The project used a sophisticated digital Data Collection and Reporting System (DCRS) which tracked the ‘before and after’ progress of participants who set goals to stop smoking,

understand their alcohol consumption and safe drinking levels, increase physical activity, improve nutrition or improve their mental health.

The project placed health literacy at its core, ensuring that health and wellbeing information was communicated in an easily-understood format. The project was awarded a Plain English Campaign’s Crystal Mark in recognition of that the project documentation used with the public is clear, concise and easily understood by those with a broad range of literacy skills. The Plain English accreditation was achieved for the full suite of health and wellbeing documentation.