Column: Key to good health is community activity

Pit winding wheel alongside Denabys Dearne Valley Leisure Centre
Pit winding wheel alongside Denabys Dearne Valley Leisure Centre
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Living in a safe environment and having opportunities to be involved in local community life can be a big factor in being able to enjoy good health.

People who live in affluent areas of Doncaster tend to have better health than those who live in the less well-off parts of the borough and, on average, they live longer lives as a result.

Where people live and how they live is really important to medical professionals like me. It’s why I’m pleased to see a scheme breathing new life into a former Doncaster mining community that has struggled to get on its feet since local pits closed 30 years ago. The Well Doncaster scheme is setting out to support local communities to improve their health and well-being and Denaby is the first to benefit from being put in the spotlight. The aim is for organisations like the NHS and Doncaster Council to work hand-in-glove with local residents to create Destination Denaby, a place where people want to live, work and play – reversing the negative perception of the village that has crept in since the mine closures.

Positive change is taking place in a number of ways to build up community pride, local leadership and create a culture of enterprise and resourcefulness. The community has come up with lots of ideas. They want to take advantage of the natural assets on their doorstep, such as the Crags which is a striking section of countryside that is currently underused. The vision is to transform it into an area that is able to host events, for schools to use as a nature trail and for local people to go walking and cycling and enjoy panoramic views.

Denaby’s allotments – a potential source of produce of fresh food for local families – had become overgrown, but they are being revived and renovated, using materials donated by businesses in the area. The village library has re-opened, run by volunteers, and a group of residents have got together to create the Dig In project, which is bringing together people of all ages and abilities to plant and grow produce for a community Christmas dinner this year.

Encouraging people to manage their health by having a balanced diet and taking regular exercise is a priority for Doncaster. Research at Denaby has revealed that around 50 per cent of those residents who are eligible for an annual health check are missing out on this important yearly review of their condition. There will be a focus on helping people help themselves and, as a start, health staff have produced a special information leaflet on managing lung disease, which many older people in the area suffer from. These are exciting times for Denaby and the lessons learned will be transferred to Stainforth, the next community in line to benefit from the Well Doncaster project.

* Read more: Doncaster pit village residents to benefit from wellbeing scheme