A new campaign aiming to stem loneliness by striking up everyday human connections has begun.
‘Looking out for our neighbours’ has been started by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership today.
Backed by late MP Jo Cox’s sister and supported by more than 240 organisations and "community champions", the campaign which covers Bradford , Craven, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield encourages people to do simple things to look out for one another.
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It is hoped to inspire people to reach out to those who live alone or might need help, and encourage them to do simple things for them that will make a real difference to their wellbeing, which "could be anything from picking up some shopping to something as easy as just saying 'hello' next time they see their neighbours".
According to research from The Health Foundation in December last year, social isolation can increase the risk of having a stroke by a third, and older people who live alone are 50 per cent more likely to visit A&E than those who live with others.
Findings published last year in Age UK’s report All the lonely people: Loneliness amongst older people also show that the number of older people who are lonely is rising quickly, which could become major public health concern, campaigners warn.
Mrs Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, Ambassador for The Jo Cox Foundation, said: "I feel passionately about creating well-connected communities where everyone is happy and healthy and has a sense of identity and belonging, and it is heart-warming to see the work that Jo started on this important issue being continued in such a positive way in the county where we grew up.
"Much of my focus since Jo was killed has been on how we can build compassionate communities and bring people together."
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In August 2018, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership allocated £1m towards supporting organisations to help tackle loneliness.
Further funding from the Partnership’s Urgent and Emergency Programme Board will support the campaign.
More than 100 residents have helped design the campaign, and 30,000 neighbourhood packs have been shared across the area.
They include a range of resources to "inspire and encourage residents to champion togetherness" in their area and look out for a neighbour in need.
Chris Pointon is co-founder and Global Campaign Ambassador for the #hellomynameis scheme, which encourages health professionals to introduce themselves to patients with their name.
He said: "A simple introduction can go a long way in starting a human connection and striking a conversation.
"We live in a very diverse society and it is everyone's responsibility to look out for other people and be kind and considerate.”
Supporters include Wakefield Trinity Community Trust, Leeds Rhinos Foundation, Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, Harrogate Town Football Club, Yorkshire Sport Foundation and the Featherstone Rovers Foundation.