Building community resilience

Francis Sealey from Enfield Climate Action Forum on how local people can be involved in protecting their communities

Flash flooding (credit Chris Gallagher via Unsplash)
Flash flooding could become a regular problem thanks to man-made climate change (credit Chris Gallagher via Unsplash)

The World Health Organisation has stated that climate change is a health crisis and that certainly was the case in France in 2019 when temperatures of over 40C saw hundreds of people die from heat-related illness, many living alone.

It is clear that soon we will have temperatures like this in the UK and the public health implications will be serious. Climate change has enormous implications for human health. This includes the direct effects of weather extremes as well as the mental health impacts caused by people losing their homes from flooding, for example.

Other indirect effects are also expected, arising from interactions between the environment and populations, for example through disruption of food supply, economies and international relations, with tensions raised between nation states.

In Enfield, we desperately need a climate change adaption strategy to address all of this. Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCaf) is working with the North Central London NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and Enfield Racial Equality Group to set up a number of community panels to involve communities in identifying the major health risks in their locality, making recommendations about what needs to be done and finding ways to build community resilience.

By doing it as a co-production with local people in their own areas, we hope to build a strategy that is owned by the communities we engage. We are in the process of discussing the outlines of the project, whether we will have one community panel or more, how we can select people randomly so the panels are representative of each local area, and what pre-panel information and learning material we would need to create.

We also are discussing how the panels will be organised; who runs them and what outputs and tangible impacts will come out of them. Ideally we would also like to see if these panels could form the basis for community resilience circles that could then be replicated across the borough, similar to what has been set up in other parts of the UK. National organisation Civic Voice initiated such a panel in Southgate around the issue of high-rise development.

We hope to build on this experience and take it forward to develop local social capital within communities to address the climate change public health risk that will affect us in the coming years.

If you are interested in this project, would like to know more, or would like to help in any way, please contact me at [email protected].