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(Apr 19 – Mar 20) Durham County Council

The aims of the Ways to Wellbeing service are to improve the health and wellbeing of adults and families in County Durham, and to contribute to the mental health and recovery agenda. Durham County Council work closely with the Wellbeing for Life service, Public Health and Social Prescribing Link Workers to facilitate the Ways to Wellbeing Service.


Outcomes – Develop Shared Local Strategic Outcomes for Your Place

The service aims to deliver a programme of activities based on the 5 Ways to Wellbeing (Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Leaning, Give); to facilitate longer term engagement in Culture and Sport activities by signposting service users to opportunities beyond the Ways to Wellbeing service; and to engage with service users and stakeholders to develop a sustainable service. The service also contributes to key public health outcomes, including:

  • Improved quality of life, mental and physical wellbeing, and social engagement
  • Reduced social isolation
  • Decreased reliance on clinical/pharmacological treatments
  • Reduced prevalence and impact of mental illness

Insight – Understand Your Community and Your Place

We gathered insight about the national health and wellbeing context from a variety of evidence-based reports from Government, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellent, Public Health, The New Economics Foundation and Sir Michael Marmot. Together, these reports highlight the importance of changing behaviours and attitudes (e.g. towards diet and exercise) to improve both mental and physical health. But they also emphasise the need for a holistic view of health – integrating traditional health improvement approaches with wellbeing approaches. Finally, they highlight socioeconomic inequalities in health and wellbeing, driven by inequalities in the wider determinants of health (such as income, education, and housing).

Next, to understand the local context, Public Health County Durham conducted a Healthy Equity Audit and 16 engagement events (focus groups and interviews) were conducted with individuals from underrepresented groups (e.g. lower socio-economic groups, older men, those with mental health difficulties, and people with learning difficulties). These insight activities revealed significant health inequalities (including large gaps in life expectancy between the most affluent and least affluent parts of the county). They also revealed barriers to engagement in health and wellbeing activities related to transport, cost, appropriateness of activities, time constraints and social skills.

Interventions – Identify How the Outcomes Can be Achieved Sustainably

Ways to Wellbeing developed a programme of community-based activities and groups that were designed to improve individuals’ wellbeing. These included Physical activity groups (e.g. walking, cycling, running, dancing, exercise, sports), activities designed to help people make the most of the natural environment (e.g. gardening, conservation), and creative groups (e.g. reading, singing, arts and crafts).

Commitment – Secure Investment Commitment to Outcome Delivery

The programme is currently funded through Durham County Council’s Public Health and Culture Sport and Tourism service budgets.

Evaluation – Understand the Impact of Your Work

The programme was monitored on a quarterly basis and improvements were made through working with key partners to ensure that new activities were developed and delivered in localities based on evidence and need.

Over 4,300 people engaged with the programme and 362 different activities and courses were delivered. After 6-12 months’ engagement, 89% of service users reported sustained or improved wellbeing. 94% of people were satisfied or very satisfied with the activity they attended and the positive benefits were consistent across different types of activity. However, retention of younger participants was lower than that of older participants and some groups were still under-represented.

The evaluation lead to a number of recommendations, including:

  • Continue to ensure accessible provision, particularly in areas of high deprivation.
  • Improve signposting arrangements and develop new referral processes with relevant organisations.
  • Find ways to sustain participant engagement for a period of at least six months.
  • Develop innovative ways to improve data quality and collection processes.
  • Carry out further work to understand why the programme is struggling to engage specific underrepresented groups. This requires a review of marketing strategy and developing more attractive activities, tailored to reach specific target groups. For example, engaging men with woodwork and pottery, and more suitable entry level physical activity sessions for people with disabilities.
    • As an example, we improved engagement of people with disabilities or limited physical activity experience through the ‘Get Run Ready’ course, a new Sofa to Cycle programme and a Health Walks programme, with reduced distance and time walks being piloted.


Click on the blocks below to read case studies.

Logo for County Durham Sport


County Durham Sport distributed Sport England funding to organisations and community groups to keep people active in the COVID 19 lockdown and recovery stages.


A multi-partner Sport England funded pilot designed. to build healthier, more active communities in Shildon and the Deerness Valley areas of County Durham


Durham County Council project designed to increase and sustain activity levels of the least active populations within the Durham Dales.


Durham County Council took part in a national Sport England funded pilot to get more people swimming, more often


Researcher from Durham University worked with patients, commissioners and providers through Active Northumberland to understand how we can improve exercise referral provision.