Enhancing community health and wellbeing: London's medical students in action


BSc Global Health Societal Impact Afternoon event

Students on Imperial's BSc Global Health programme proudly shared their community engagement endeavours at a recent event.

The event, held at the new School of Public Health Building at Imperial’s White City and Hammersmith Campus, welcomed undergraduate medical and dental students (from the BSc in Global Health) who have worked with communities as part of their studies.

The annual Societal Impact Afternoon serves as a forum to share collaboration experiences between future health professionals and the local voluntary and community sector. Following a highly sociable community lunch, students and community leaders reflected on their shared learning across the range of organisations that took part this year. These included FORWARD (Foundation for Women’s Health, research and development), Hammersmith Community Gardens Association,?One Westminster, The Gurkha Centre, Young Brent Foundation and Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation.

The purpose of the placement is for students to recognise the immense and unique value that the third sector brings to the health and well-being of local communities. Working in groups of five, students visit and engage with a community-based organisation between October and December each year.

Attending meetings and engaging with stakeholders, students begin to understand the complexity and interconnection of how these community-based organisations work with health services and local government. The course team hopes that graduates will collaborate and engage with the voluntary sector in their clinical careers ahead.

Navigating London's Complex Health Landscape 

London grapples with significant challenges such as poverty and inequality, reflecting both the opportunities and obstacles faced by local communities. The community placements enable students to discern the root causes of these inequities and understand effective strategies for mitigating harm and disease.

Societal Impact event

Dr Shyam Budhathoki, the module lead for community group placements on the BSc Global Health, emphasises the collaborative nature of the projects, where students and CBO staff co-design service evaluation and quality improvement. He said, “Our students collaborate, understand and make recommendations on how our community partners can maximise their health and wellbeing impact. These projects bolster the services offered by CBOs, fostering mutual benefit.”

This year students placed at One Westminster observed and studied the impact of the organisation's 'Befriending' initiative - combating loneliness and social isolation among Westminster’s elderly population. Their reflections underscored the importance of human connections and advocated for inclusive services catering to individuals with mental health conditions and those facing language barriers.

Gareth Dixon, CEO of the Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation, commended the alignment of the placement scheme with their existing youth-focused initiatives on research and knowledge generation: 

“The Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation has greatly benefitted from participating in Imperial’s community placement programme. The programme has brought a fresh perspective and innovative ideas from the students, providing new insights to help us review our work. Through this partnership, we have gained a deeper understanding of the issues we are trying to address and drive meaningful change in our community. This collaboration perfectly aligns with our mission to encourage young people to raise their voices and provide a platform to share what matters to them.” 

Medical student Amelia Wild who worked with the Young Hammersmith and Fulham Foundation said:

“We all really enjoyed our time with YHFF. As a medical student and future healthcare professional, I have not had a previous opportunity to understand the range of services available in the community, and the important role they play. I think that gaining an insight into how these organisations are working, and particularly their overlap with the NHS, government and education sectors, has given me a greater appreciation for the work that they do and the challenges they face. Understanding these services can help healthcare professionals to address a patient’s health from a more holistic perspective, which is something I think this project has made me appreciate and I will take into my future career.”

Michelle Sinden, a staff from Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA) shared her experience that for women in some communities, gardening projects were the only way for them to engage with other members of the community outside their house. She said: “Some things as simple as gardening could have a great impact on people’s mental health and well-being as well as foster a sense of belonging within the community”.   

Another medical student, Sinchna Rao, who worked with HCGA, expressed, “It was extremely eye-opening to see the role of gardening in peoples’ mental health. The gardening centre can be beneficial to all different types of people, whether they want some time to themselves or to build a sense of community”.   

Sinchna further added, “I found it so valuable to understand the importance of grassroots organisations such as these CBOs who have just as much, if not more, of a direct impact on people's lives as health professionals do. Experiencing this first-hand is something I will always remember and will undoubtedly take forward in my future practice.” 

The event concluded with a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Richard Pinder, where partners shared key takeaways for future health professionals. These included the power of listening, optimism, trusting community instincts, adopting a social lens, and embracing collaboration with voluntary sector CBOs.

Imperial’s School of Public Health recognises its responsibilities to local health as much as global health. Moving to its new building in White City is an important milestone in the School’s journey to improving health and well-being locally. Imperial's medical students are expanding their knowledge and making tangible contributions to the health and well-being of Londoners.


Jack Stewart

Jack Stewart
School of Public Health

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2664
Email: jack.stewart@imperial.ac.uk

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