Building evidence into housing

By Tom Allen - on 06/05/2015

Following our Groups 4 Health training, our housing and health intern Tom Allen considers the challenge of putting evidence into practice.

As HACT’s health and housing intern, one of the most exciting pieces of work I’ve been involved in has been our project looking at Standards of Evidence in housing. Especially in times of limited resources it’s crucial to know “what works”. This is why, this work has focused on the methods used in evidence creation and how these can be improved.

However, perhaps even more important is how change happens on the ground, bringing evidence based practice into the housing sector, which is why our series of masterclasses on housing and health focus on approaches to integration which have a strong evidence base.  

In partnership with academics from the University of Queensland, we held the first of our Groups 4 Heath training sessions in April, where pioneering organisations began the journey to build evidence into their work. Groups 4 Health is an intervention which fosters social connections to support better health. There is a substantial evidence base which informs the approach, for example one study has shown that being a member of multiple social groups can reduce cognitive age in older people. By the age of 80, participants with extensive group ties had a cognitive age of 70 compared to those with limited group membership whose cognitive age was, on average, 90! Another study found that identification with a social group is a strong predictor of successful treatment for depression and anxiety.

Groups 4 Health aims to harness this resource to support participants to develop multiple group memberships. The model’s founders are passionate about creating further evidence in support of the approach as you can see in this video where Professor Alex Haslam explores the value of social connections.

The potential for the housing sector to utilise this model in a variety of settings is clear. If we can improve the resilience of customers there will be benefits, not just to the housing sector, but also to the NHS, wider society and of course tenants themselves. This sort of work could not be more important at present as we face the challenges of an ageing and increasingly vulnerable tenant group at the same time as funding cuts are threatening the viability of traditional one to one support. In addition, if we can utilise evidence based approaches, the potential to work closely with the health care sector is much greater.

The next stage of our work is to support pioneering organisations to create evidence, around their application of Groups 4 Health, as they pilot it in practice. This is an exciting challenge for the housing sector which has not often been at the for-front of evidence creation. It is essential that we develop an understanding of which contexts this approach can best be applied to and which types of customer can benefit most. In some ways it would be nicer if this work could all be done for us but this is simply not the way evidence creation works – we need to understand our own specific situation. I’m excited to have been involved in this from the start and I hope our work can become an example to the housing sector of the benefits of utilising and evidence based approach.   

Tom Allen is HACT’s Housing and Health Intern

If you would like to be involve with future Groups 4 Health training or want more information please contact daniela.mothci@hact.org.uk

For more information on our housing and health masterclasses see our new housing and health website.

To find out more about our work on Standards of Evidence in housing see our website here.

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