Tag Archives: Health Information Project

New Year, New You 2017

Church Street Library held its ‘New Year, New You’ event on 18 January, offering customers the opportunity to try something out of the ordinary for 2017. We certainly provided that, attracting a large number of visitors over the course of the day.

Church Street Library: 'New Year, New You'. January 2017

The day unfolded as the three floored library transformed into zones.  The ground floor lending library became the Body and Mind Zone, offering customers a full body MOT, stop smoking advice, healthy eating tips, with health food store Nature Intended providing freebies. Our local Post Office was there too. We also had Westminster Registrars on hand to talk about the Nationality Checking Service. Heavenly music from the London Maritime Quintet filled the air. In total we had 15 stalls sharing the space.

The Maritime Quintet at Church Street Library for 'New Year, New You'. January 2017

One floor down, the Chillax and Breathe Zone filled with nine complementary therapy stalls, delivering foot and head massage, facial threading, hand massage and beauty pampering through to henna hand art.

The Community Space was renamed the Active Zone for the day, hosting modern dance and a local line dancing crew managed by Pina; the Learning Centre became the Learn Something New Zone, where we offered Arabic classes, a CV advice workshop and a taster in creative writing. Carol’s Organic Kitchen provided healthy sandwich burgers and Osman Khan Church Street Community provided tea and coffee.

Transport was arranged to bring Home Library Service readers to the library, offering them a chance to enjoy a concert by professional musicians the London Maritime quintet in the relaxed setting of the library. As a complete contrast our readers then enjoyed some more modern music and a demonstration of hip hop and street dance by a member of Rain Crew.

Breakdancing at New Year New You event, Church Street Library January 2017     Breakdancing at New Year New You event, Church Street Library January 2017

Comments from HLS members:

“A wonderful programme.”

“Loved the music – heard composers’ work I had not come across before.”

“Loved the breakdancing.”

“The young man dancing was so passionate about what he was doing and was charming.”

“It is wonderful to go out and meet old and new friends.”



Stay Well This Winter!

Winter Wellness resources at St John's Wood LibraryWe have blogged in the past about the ways that libraries are good for your health and wellbeing: increasing social and community cohesion with events and book groups, improving literacy and life skills, providing information about CV sessions, interview skills, job opportunities, housing issues and helping with digital inclusion with free online access through PCs and wifi, adult learning, children’s book sharing and of course a wide range of regular health sessions, talks and stalls for all ages – all these aspects of library life are good for our health.

We rely on our close partnership work with the NHS to guide us so that we can keep you informed about healthy lifestyle choices. At the moment Public Health England and more specifically our CCG, Central London Clinical Commissioning Group, are urging us to ‘Stay Well This Winter’.

Here are the answers to some questions you may have about one aspect of ‘Stay Well this Winter’ – the flu vaccine:

Stay Well This Winter  – the Flu Vaccine

The NHS has been encouraging everyone to Stay Well This Winter by taking a number of steps to minimise the risk of falling unwell during the colder months – you might have seen posters and information displayed in libraries throughout Westminster. There are also videos to raise awareness:

Importantly, free flu vaccines are available to a number of groups of people including older people aged over 65, children aged 2-4 and in school years one and two, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and carers. Most GPs and pharmacies will be providing free flu vaccines until the end of January or February so it is still not too late if you, a friend or a family member has not yet had yours. If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine your GP will be able to organise one for you, so it’s worth asking about.

To help understand why getting the flu vaccine is important we spoke to Dr Sarah Wallace, Public Health Registrar:

Why do we worry so much about preventing flu?

Flu is a strange illness.  People so often confuse it with a cold, but in reality they are very different.  Most of those who have had flu need no convincing to have the flu jab. You can be ill for up to a week, and it isn’t just the sniffles, shivering and sore throat that you have with your average cold. People will generally be in bed with high fevers, muscle aches, profound tiredness and other symptoms and will be completely unable to complete their normal daily activities.  This means time off work or school – it may be up to seven days before you feel better.

We particularly worry about certain groups of people getting the flu, who for various reasons have an immune system which can’t fight the flu as well as others can. These people include those aged 65 and over, people with other long-term medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease and many others), pregnant women and young babies. Because these people may have a weaker immune system they are more likely to end up in hospital as a result of the flu, with complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or rarely meningitis.  Sometimes flu can have incredibly severe consequences and Public Health England estimates that around 8,000 people die of flu every year in England and Wales.

Will having the vaccine guarantee that you won’t get flu?

The flu is a virus which is constantly changing and there are many strains; however each year the most common flu strains are different, and so the vaccine changes yearly.  Although the vaccination can’t stop all flu viruses, and it is not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free,if you do get flu after having the vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.  There is also evidence to suggest that the flu jab can reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Can you get flu by having the flu vaccine?

There are lots of myths about the flu vaccine.  Contrary to many people’s belief the flu vaccination will not give you the flu.  Some people feel a bit tired and achy, but this is simply your immune system working.

How can you get a free flu vaccine if you think we might be eligible?

Free flu vaccines are for these eligible groups are available until the end of January; not only from GPs but in London many pharmacies are also providing the flu vaccination for adults, which may be more convenient for some.

What if a child doesn’t like injections – can they still be protected against the flu?

The flu vaccine for children is particularly easy – it is just a simple and painless nasal spray.  There have been many people asking why they should vaccinate their healthy child against the flu.  It not only helps to reduce the likelihood of them getting sick, but also helps to stop them spreading the flu to others in the community particularly people who are vulnerable.  Flu is generally spread in the community by children.  They might be visiting elderly or sick relatives over the holidays, or those with young brothers or sisters. 2015 is the first year that children in school years one and two across the country are included in the programme.

Why is it important people in Westminster receive the flu vaccine?

Unfortunately we know that historically in Westminster flu vaccination uptake has been low, below the London average.  I urge those who are eligible for a flu vaccination to make an appointment with your GP today, or if you are over 18 visit your local pharmacy.  More information on how to Stay Well This Winter can be found at nhs.uk/staywell.  The flu vaccination will be available at most GPs and pharmacies until the end of January or February, please don’t put it off.

Your local library and children’s libraries will have hard copy Stay Well this Winter and Flu Vaccination leaflets.

[Dr Sarah Wallace, Public Health Registrar;
Kate Gielgud, Health Information Coordinator]

Bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair at Victoria Library

On Wednesday 20 May, Victoria Library was host to a bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair. This year’s event was delivered as part of SW Connects project to support better integration of the armed forces families and their local community.

Dr Bike making a bike road safe at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015   Checking blood pressure at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015

WAES showing us how to prepare healthy snacks at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015More than 100 people came by throughout the afternoon to indulge in free massages, take part in a taster session to make healthy summer rolls, learn about mindfulness and get their health checked.  There were also plenty of opportunities to investigate some of the many volunteering options available.

General bustle at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015


Reading Well in Westminster

Reading Well logoFollowing the Reading Agency launch of the Reading Well Books on Prescription Dementia Collection on Monday 26 January, libraries across the three boroughs gave community and health partners, as well as members of the public, the chance to find out about our Reading Well initiatives, with collection launches at five libraries, starting with Pimlico Library on 30 January.

The Carers’ Network, BME Forum, Migrants Resource Centre, Breathe Easy Support group, and other community and health partners came to Pimlico library for tea and scones to hear about Reading Well in libraries.

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription - Dementia Collection

Diane Sherlock at the Pimlico Library launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription – Dementia Collection

They also listened to a poetry reading by Diane Sherlock, author of ‘Come into the Garden’ – a collection of poems written when caring for her mother who was living with vascular dementia after a stroke. Copies of ‘Come into the Garden’ are available in all libraries in the three boroughs and are being used in our ‘read aloud’ bibliotherapy groups.

Remembering Together artefacts at Paddington LibraryKathryn Gilfoy, from Westminster Arts, brought the display of artefacts created by artists and individuals living with Dementia – as shown in our recent ‘Remembering Together’ post.

There followed launches at North Kensington and Brompton libraries (read more on the RBKC Libraries blog) and at Hammersmith and Fulham libraries (read more on LBHF Libraries). Five different launches in different libraries in the three boroughs, only made possible by joint working with library staff and health and community partners.

Very warm thanks to Sara, Ronnie and Luigi at Pimlico and all colleagues!  Thanks to Diane Sherlock and Nell Dunn who donated their time and to Kathryn and Freya from Westminster Arts. Thanks to the Stroke Association who donate their time and resources to help prevent vascular dementia by preventing stroke.

Libraries are doing their bit for Dementia.  If you would like to join the Dementia Alliance, contact Helen.ODonovan@alzheimers.org.uk.


Church Street Library gets healthy

Church Street Library hosted two key health events in October, organised by Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service in partnership with the Health Information Project and Westminster Family Learning Service.

Health event at Church Street Library, October 2014The first event, tied in with Black History Month, aimed to promote Black and Ethnic minorities’ health information and raise awareness of common illnesses that these communities are naturally predisposed to, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

An author and producer from Gift of Living Organ Donation (GOLD), Dela Idowu, gave a presentation of a film about her emotional struggle dealing with a family member’s kidney failures. She had produced the film to raise awareness about living organ donation, which is a concern in both the Black and Asian communities. The film showcase was followed by a Q&A session and was a great success. There are plans to host more events like this in both Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries.

Health event at Church Street Library, October 2014

The idea for the next event was to bring families together through the festive periods of both Eid and Diwali by providing family learning activities and to convey a message about health. The story book used was ‘Dinosaur Douglas and the Beastly Bugs‘ by Heather Meisner and is part of a project commissioned by Public Health, aimed at improving dental and oral health in primary school children. The idea is to encourage children to brush their teeth at bedtime so that they get rid of the ‘Beastly Bugs’.

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

The event started with a story session, followed by family workshops making pop-up cards using the main character from the book and Islamic colouring and painting.

While some families were happily taking part in the workshops others were immersing themselves with free massage and henna arts designs. Over one hundred people attended, which led to a great and busy day!


Health information in libraries – how it’s grown!

Kate Gielgud, Libraries’ Health Information Officer, looks back at the last five years and on to the next:

It is five years to the day since I started working for Westminster Libraries – on 7 September 2009.  I started my library career at Queen’s Park Library in the north of the borough. This thriving community library has just done well in a customer satisfaction survey.  Queen’s Park Library has always been known for its pleasant and helpful staff and the number and variety of its events.

Queen's Park Library staff at a community event

Queen’s Park Library manager Hugh Thomas and Bengali outreach coordinator Mahbuba Khan at a promotional event.

I left Queen’s Park in 2011 to go on secondment to my present post of Health Information Officer.

During the past few years the amount of health information events and book groups in Westminster have increased and since the Triborough arrangement began we now have more health promotion events taking place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham Libraries too. Libraries are helping the public get the best start in life for their children, choose healthy lifestyle options as adults, and age well.  We do all this in partnership with over fifty NHS, community and voluntary organisations.

As all libraries have been busy helping our younger readers between the ages of 4 – 11 read their six books and get their stickers and prizes as part of the annual Summer Reading Challenge, we have been giving some thought to Early Years health information.

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

Making tooth brushing fun, with Dinosaur Douglas

The ‘A- maze- ing Bouncing Boost Quest’ took place at Queen’s Park children’s library in August, with activities from Mytimeactive Boost programmes, delivered by Magda and Ben from the Oral and Dental Health Team. The terrible tale of ‘Dinosaur Douglas and the beastly bugs‘ was read by Lacey from Queen’s Park Library: a story of a dinosaur who not only didn’t eat his pasta and broccoli but gorged on sweets and chocolate and then didn’t brush his teeth – of course the beastly bugs went to work and he had toothache and then had to have FILLINGS. A cautionary tale indeed.

Tooth brushing fun!This was supported by the green plush Douglas himself, complete with a splendid set of teeth and a toothbrush. The children responded well to the story and to the activities. They took home the free fruit they pulled out of a bag with their eyes closed, guessing what it was! We also gave out information on the importance of Vitamin D for healthy teeth and bones and of course diet and physical activity.

Change4Life has teamed up with Disney to help kids get active and having fun. Families can sign up to be part of the 10 Minute Shake Up and receive:

  • Disney themes wall chart and stickers
  • Activity cards
  • Online activities inspired by everyone’s favourite Disney characters
  • Games, special offers and new ideas from other Change4Life partners.

There are increasing challenges in the face of a rapidly changing world and we have a role to play in helping those supported by some of our community partner organisations to get online – not only to find health information, book GP appointments, and self refer – but also to search for jobs, accommodation and free learning opportunities. New initiatives to help library staff learn new skills also help us help our customers, widening participation.

The main health information websites are:

  • Ebola virusNHS Choices
    This is the Ebola virus from NHS Choices Health News – just one of the thousands of options on the site. Happy browsing.
  • Live Well
    On a more positive note, this is the link to the healthy lifestyle pages.
  • Patient.co.uk
    There are two parts to this site one for patients and one for doctors.  According to a local pharmacist:
    ‘GPs like this site as it is easy to read but very thorough.  It gives you an article telling you everything about the condition, it gives you links to other helpful websites and any related news articles and videos of doctors talking about the condition and posts from sufferers of the condition. It gives you links to support groups (for example http://www.patient.co.uk/health/media/videos/cancer-treatment-what-happens-during-chemotherapy)

Accessing health information online helps the NHS preserve time and resources and empowers us!