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December 16, 2021

A cross-border European Union INTERREG VA funded partnership between the statutory sector and eight community-based Hubs across Northern Ireland, the border counties of Ireland and the West of Scotland has made a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of 10,000 people.

The CAWT Community Health Synchronisation (CoH-Sync) project received grant funding, totalling €5.01 million, from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. Match-funding has been provided by the Departments of Health, Northern Ireland and Ireland, with support from the Scottish Government.

The project has been recognised as an exemplar cross-jurisdictional model for supporting population health and tackling health inequalities across the region.

Designed to help build the capacity of communities to deliver sustainable health and wellbeing programmes, the project supported the Hubs to recruit and train 40 local Community Health Facilitators to deliver a diverse range of healthy lifestyle programmes to the residents within their communities. People in local communities were encouraged and supported to take control of their own health by making sustainable small changes.

The CoH-Sync project reflects national healthcare policy which places an emphasis on prevention of the risk factors associated with chronic illness such as Heart Disease, Cancers, Respiratory illness and mental health conditions.

Each participant in the programme has been supported by a Community Health Facilitator to develop and action a personalised Health and Wellbeing Plan which enabled them to take health into their own hands and identify areas in their lifestyle which needed to be modified in order to improve their overall health status. Participants engaged in activities to improve their health and well-being.

The project used a sophisticated digital Data Collection and Reporting System (DCRS) which tracked the ‘before and after’ progress of participants who set goals to stop smoking, understand their alcohol consumption and safe drinking levels, increase physical activity, improve nutrition or improve their mental health.

The Project placed health literacy at its core, ensuring that health and well-being information was communicated in an easily understood format. The project was awarded a Plain English Campaign’s Crystal Mark, in recognition of the project documentation used with the public is clear, concise and easily understood by those with a broad range of literacy skills. The Plain English accreditation was achieved for the full suite of health and well-being documentation.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The project has enabled The Cooperation and Working Together Partnership (CAWT) to progress work on early intervention, prevention of disease and the reduction of health inequalities.  This is a key priority for all the project partners and the Departments of Health. This initiative has transformed the lives of those experiencing isolation and poor mental and physical health – conditions further exacerbated by a global pandemic.”

Minister Donnelly, from the Department of Health Ireland, said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the Project Celebration Event for the ‘CoH- Sync – Synchronising Health across Borders and Boundaries INTERREG project’. This project, like other INTERREG projects, provides a great opportunity for us to work together across jurisdictions and to learn from each other, as we are often facing the same health challenges in our populations. CoH-Sync’s emphasis on enabling local people to take ownership of their health and wellbeing aligns well with Sláintecare and the Healthy Communities Programme. This community focus is reflected in the excellent cooperation we see through the CAWT Partnership, the Health and Social Care Board, and the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland. This project really demonstrates what we can achieve together and I commend all involved.”

Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health, and Sport, Scotland, said: “Through innovative cooperation between Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Western Scotland the CoH-Sync project has supported over two thousand people throughout the Dumfries and Galloway area by providing motivational conversations, tailored health and wellbeing plans and offering solution-based approaches to preventing ill health and long-term conditions for members of the community. These results have been made possible due to funding from the CoH-Sync project, and partnership support from CAWT and SEUPB. The Scottish Government congratulates the CoH-Sync project on delivering fantastic outcomes for their regions.”

Reflecting on the success of the CoH Sync project, Gina McIntyre, CEO of the Special EU Programmes Body commented: “The Pandemic has highlighted the health inequalities that were present in health care provision across Northern Ireland, Ireland and Western Scotland. These inequalities are most acutely felt in deprived areas and therefore improving cross-border health and social care services is one of the core objectives of the EU INTERREG VA Programme.”

“The CoH Sync project is an excellent example of a project which seeks to improve this provision and has done so through its community and well-being Hubs, which have demonstrated the powerful impact of cross-border partnerships. By empowering thousands of citizens to manage their own health and social care needs, CoH Sync has developed preventative initiatives that will help to ensure the long-term viability of our health service,” she continued.

Speaking on behalf of the CAWT Partnership Dr Maura O’Neill from the Western Health and Social Care Trust and Chairperson of the CoH-Sync project said: “We wish to commend the Special EU Programmes Body for their EU INTERREG funding support. This project has made a huge change to people’s lives across a wide geographical area. In particular, many participants that stated that the CoH-Sync project helped them to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 and the associated restrictions and enforced isolation. We are keen to see this type of project expanded in the future.”

For further information on the EU’s INTERREG VA Programme contact John McCandless, Communications Manager with the SEUPB, at:

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