Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns has been talking at various conferences and events about how we tackle some of the seemingly intractable health challenges Scotland faces - exacerbated by factors such as poverty, Scotland's relationship with alcohol, unemployment, and poor physical and social environments. To create and improve our health and wellbeing he encourages a move away from a glass half empty (deficit model) to a glass half full (asset model).
Assets approaches identify the assets within individuals and communities - helping them to identify and find solutions to their problems. Through empowering individuals and communities to control their futures, sustainable local solutions to local problems can be found - and people will find changes for the better in their health and wellbeing, life chances, capacities, skills and general aspirations.
This is not putting a rosy glow on the significant challenges Scotland faces. It is, in fact, the reverse - that:
- to deal with these issues and make a positive change we have to face up to the facts that we have significant problems;
- what we have tried to date (although well meaning) has not worked to the extent we need; and
- public services alone do not have the solutions to these complex social issues. Only by working with individuals and communities and supporting the inner and innate assets in these individuals and communities will we make a step change.
Dr Burns dedicates a full chapter of his latest Annual Report (November 2010) to explaining the Assets Model, and how it can contribute to health improvement. This includes:
- what creates health (Salutogenesis), rather than the traditional view of preventing illness;
- Sense of Coherence - how people need to be able to understand their lives, manage this day to day, and see themselves and life as worthwhile. People who feel they have little control over life experience more stress. This chronic stress mechanism in the body risks seriously damaging health and quality of life; and
- assets within people as individuals and in groups within communities, supporting people to work together and take control.
To see the full report, either visit the Equally Well Ning Site or latest publications.
Taking forward assets approaches in Scotland will require changes in mind set and approach within Scottish Government, local public services, Third Sector and communities themselves. This is not a new thing! Community development and various approaches have been used for many years, but there is a ground swell of interest now within Scotland, and maybe this is the right moment to re-emphasise an assets approach and promote it further.
As a starting point, the Scottish Government in partnership with the Scottish Centre for Community Development (SCDC) and Long Term Conditions Alliance Scotland recently organised an event to initiate an Assets Alliance Scotland. 'An Assets Alliance Scotland - building our Social Capital' took place earlier this week. Over 90 people, from across the public, community and voluntary sectors and academia attended to see examples of assets approaches in action, and to consider how to take forward an Assets Alliance. Twenty demonstrator projects showcased examples of assets approaches including Castlemilk Timebank and Ayr United Football Academy. Castlemilk Timebank promotes community involvement and community spirit in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow by helping people to exchange skills, services and support and Ayr United Football Academy develops football-based activities to provide healthy and diversionary activities to a wide range of people, including young people, people with physical disabilities, and those with mental health issues. The meeting ended with a discussion around the purpose of the Assets Alliance and how to take it forward. Spreading and promoting the value of assets approaches, enhancing and developing what is already there, and the Alliance as a locus for knowledge and experience exchange were just some of the suggestions on how to progress the Alliance.
This event was just the start of the Assets Alliance. There will be lots of opportunities to get involved in the future and to contribute as the Assets Alliance goes forward and we will keep you updated on these.