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Healthy Cities 21st Century

Get into Reading

Health Literacy

Organisation: 
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Date of Project: 
27 March 2012 – 22 May 2012
Geography of Project: 
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
Keywords: 
health and wellbeing, workplace health, stress, shared reading
Aim, Background, What Happened: 

BHSCT is the largest employers in Northern Ireland with over 22,000 staff who were offered this programme as part of the BHSCT Health & Wellbeing at work Action Plan 2014/15.

The Get Into Reading programme aimed to enhance the emotional health and well-being of BHSCT staff.

The aim of the project was to deliver a weekly, shared reading group (Get Into Reading) for staff within the Trust which would, in the short term, improve their wellbeing, and in the longer term, reduce the potential of absence from work as a consequence of stress, depression or poor mental or emotional health.

Context of Community or Target Group: 

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust employees were offered this programme as part of the BHSCT Health & Wellbeing at work Action Plan 2014/15.

Evidence suggests that a workplace which makes the health and wellbeing of employees a priority can reduce illness- related absenteeism and increase staff motivation and productivity with the added benefit that staff feels cared for.

Evidence suggests a significant proportion of staff absence rates within the BHSCT are attributable to stress; with this in mind the ‘Get into Reading’ initiative was introduced as a novel approach to address issues surrounding the emotional health and wellbeing of staff, most notably stress.

The ‘Get into Reading’ programme is a shared reading experience, where a group meet weekly to read books and poems aloud and share responses and experiences. The group is led by a trained facilitator from The Reader Organisation. The group provides a platform for staff to meet, feel connected, safe and in an environment where they feel confident to talk openly about issues the text may have prompted.

Influences on Case Study: 

Get Into Reading (GIR), TRO’s national shared reading model, brings great literature to life through reading together. It offers a safe and practical way of dealing with group members’ individual ‘stories’ by promoting deep engagement with the text and by extension, personal experience.

Policy and Other Problems: 

The programme was delivered under the BHSCT Health & Wellbeing at work Action Plan 2015/16 however was hard to sell as some interpreted it as too simple while others thought it was too high brow. Barriers to engagement included the perception that it was very literary and the discussion would focus on the literature, rather than issues of health and wellbeing.

There were two mem involved in the programme, however due to the large proportion of female staff members the programme had mostly female participants. The groups were very dynamic.

Prior Experience with Health Literacy Across Sectors: 

The programme was delivered by the Reader Organisation initially, however changed delivery agent half way through the programme as the facilitator started her own company. The facilitator was familiar with the group and had completed research on the benefit of reading and health maintenance, using literature in communication as therapy and within a variety of settings.

Concept of Health and Health Literacy: 

Not mentioned explicitly, however mentions literacy. The programme evaluations measure a difference in behaviour related to health choices and coping with stress.

Prioritisation of Issue: 

A priority issue within the BHSCT Health & Wellbeing at work Action Plan 2015/16. However prioritisation for the pilot project has been given to the service group with the highest rate of staff absence due to stress.

DHSSPS Making Life Better – A Whole System Framework for Public Health 2013-2023

NICE Guidelines June 2015:  Workplace policy and management practices to improve the health and wellbeing of employees.

Formal Processes: 

A partnership was established with The Reader Organisation, an award winning charitable social enterprise, working across the UK to connect people with great literature. This partnership sought and received funding of £600 for a 6 week pilot programme from the Here 4 U group. Support was sought and received from service group directors and senior management.

Availability of Resources: 

A partnership was established with The Reader Organisation, an award winning charitable social enterprise, working across the UK to connect people with great literature. This partnership sought and received funding of £600 for a 6 week pilot programme from the Here 4 U group.

On the strength of the pilot programme, £2,400 funding was successfully procured from the Health Promotion Consortium for development and further evaluation. This funding has been utilised to provide two further ‘Get into Reading’ programmes across the Trust. The administration of the programme has been jointly shared by the membership of the Health Improvement Sub group of the Improving working Lives steering group.

Capacity-Building Activities: 

The programme was proven to be beneficial for participants to use literature as a tool for discussing their emotions and discussions within the group.

Social Mechanisms: 

The group format provided a very dynamic approach to discussing health and wellbeing issues.

Acceptability: 

Barriers to engagement were acknowledged; however once involved in the programme the high values of the programme was reflected in the evaluations.

Feasiblity: 

The programme was relatively low cost, easily managed, advertised internally via staff intranet and there was no set homework during the programme, all literature was read and discussed during the group.

Sustainability: 

The success of the pilot ensured that funding could be secured to deliver the programme in further areas.  The programme was supported by senior management, and partnering with an external body that had experience of delivering similar projects proved to be a cost effective delivery model.

Following the completion of the 6 week pilot the group continued the programme independently, starting their own group.  Some participant trained as trainers to ensure sustainability of the programme.

Other Comments / Information: 

The programme was rolled out further based on the evaluations from the pilot. It was also rolled out in the Cancer Centre for patients. The programme was a successful, creative and innovative approach to health improvement.

Headline Message(s): 

SIMPLY READ – AMAZING THERAPEUTIC EFFECT

Evaluation: 

Evaluations were conducted with participants and feedback used to inform project development.

Further Information: 

The Reader Organisation:
http://www.thereader.org.uk/reading-with-us.aspx

For further information please contact Anne McCusker at Belfast Health Cities anne@belfastheatlhycities.com or 028 9032 8811.