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Councils turn to design to tackle public health challenges

Councils turn to design to tackle public health challenges

30 October 2018

14 projects from 18 councils across England have been selected onto Design Council’s Design in Public Sector programme, delivered in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), to help address complex public health challenges and improve outcomes for their residents. A 25% increase in applications this year confirms that councils are looking for new ways to tackle stubborn and complex public health issues and are increasingly seeing the value of design processes in transforming services in their communities. There has also been a steady rise in the number of councils applying in partnership, demonstrating a growing recognition of the power of collaboration in enabling innovation.

At a time when public health budgets are tight, and resources stretched, the programme has the health of the nation at the core of its agenda. Using Design Council’s Framework for Innovation and globally recognised Double Diamond, Design Council will support councils and their health partners to explore their challenges and identify innovative opportunities to deliver positive and sustainable change.

The councils starting the programme in November will tackle a range of prevention focused public health challenges from alcohol misuse and physical inactivity, to improving air quality and reducing bloodstream infections in people who inject drugs.

Cllr Peter Fleming OBE, Chairman, LGA Improvement and Innovation Board said:

“We recognise that there is a growing movement of design thinking and innovation in public services and the LGA is keen to equip more councils with the necessary tools and knowledge. Public health is an area within local government being asked to deliver prevention strategies and improve the health of our communities and we believe an injection of design thinking will help them to achieve this”.

Sarah Weir OBE, Chief Executive, Design Council said:

“Design is increasingly being recognised as a critical tool to help transform services in communities across the globe. With increasing pressures on public health services and public-sector staff there is no better time for public health professionals to sign up to our Design in the Public Sector programme. Whatever the challenge, design experts will help professionals to explore the issues impacting them and identify new ideas and opportunities to bring about positive change”.

Seven lead councils from the North of England:

  • Cheshire East Borough Council
  • Chorley Council
  • Derbyshire County Council
  • Liverpool City Council
  • Solihull Council
  • Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
  • Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council

Seven lead councils from the South of England:

  • Surrey County Council
  • East Sussex County Council
  • Bristol City Council
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council
  • Adur and Worthing Councils
  • Maldon District Councils

Case studies of how the Design in the Public sector programme has helped local authorities to date can be found here.

About Design Council

Design Council’s purpose is to make life better by design. We are an independent charity and the government’s advisor on design. Our vision is a world where the role and value of design is recognised as a fundamental creator of value, enabling happier, healthier and safer lives for all. Through the power of design, we make better places, better products, better processes and better performance.

About the LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) and Design Council have worked in partnership for four years, with a shared vision to grow the public sector’s capacity to deliver efficient and effective public services, to help improve people’s lives. Design Council and the LGA’s ambition is to increase the level of understanding and application of design approaches across public services, supporting local government teams to tackle challenges differently. Through our partnership the Design in the Public-Sector programme has:

  • Promoted the value of design in the context of public service improvement and innovation to local authorities across all nine English regions;
  • Supported more than 200 individuals across the public sector to use design as a process for framing service challenges and identifying opportunities for change and improvement.

About the programme

The programme provides a structured process, based on Design Council’s Framework for Innovation and globally recognised Double Diamond, that brings partners and communities together in teams to use the design process strategically to explore and address key public health challenges. Throughout the programme teams are building their skills and capabilities, creating new insights and evidence and shaping new opportunities that have the potential to deliver alternative and improved health outcomes.

To date design tools and methods learnt on the programme have been successfully adopted by over 60 Local Authorities so far. Over the past year some of the public health challenges the programme has supported include:

  • Improving patient’s health before surgery in Calderdale
  • Reducing unnecessary A&E visits by the over 75s in Epping Forest
  • Addressing high rates of teenage pregnancy amongst vulnerable groups in West Sussex
  • Building social connection and community-led services to reduce social isolation in Stockport.

About Design in public services

Design offers an innovative way to develop solutions, services and policies, with a relentless focus on real people's needs, a reduction of risk and an increased efficiency through continual testing and improvement. Design Council has worked extensively with UK public bodies on frontline services and complex policy challenges, from skills training to innovation challenges.  

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