Introducing Professor Rusi Jaspal

Published: Friday, June 21, 2019

A leading professor has been appointed by Wandsworth Council as an advisor to help tackle the issues that can affect health such as social isolation and loneliness.

Share this

Professor Rusi Jaspal is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at De Montfort University and lives in Wandsworth. He is going to tend his expertise to help strengthen services across the borough, with a particular focus on increasing skills and knowledge around behaviour change.

Cllr Paul Ellis was responsible for securing the services of Professor Jaspal in his previous role as cabinet member for Adult Care and Health.

He said: “During my time as cabinet member for Adult Care and Health, I was struck by the fact that 70 years ago average life expectancy was in the mid-60s, but advances in medical science now mean most of us can live well into our 80s. Unfortunately, however, our average healthy life expectancy is still in the mid-60s. What we want to do is encourage people to live more healthily during the earlier part of their lives because that will help them in later life.

“To do that we need to understand why we all do things we know are bad for us, and then work out strategies for helping and encouraging people to change their behaviour.

“There are a number of academics around the country who are experts in this field and we are fortunate to have one living in Wandsworth. We are delighted to be working with Professor Jaspal and very lucky to have him as a local resident. He will be a critical friend to the council and as an Adult Social Care and Public Health Advisor help us deliver better services for our residents.”

Cllr Ellis added: “Cllr Melanie Hampton will now be working closely with Professor Jaspal, in her role as the new cabinet member for Adult Social Care and Health and we are all looking forward to making the most of his experience and expertise.”

Social isolation and loneliness is known to have a negative impact on individual health and wellbeing at different stages of life. In Wandsworth only 41 per cent of adult social care users surveyed say that they have as much social contact as they would like. 

Carers are also at increasing risk of isolation with only 25 per cent of carers in Wandsworth having as much social contact as they would like, compared to 37 per cent across London.

One of the highest risk factors for experiencing loneliness is age. Around eight per cent (10,385) of households in Wandsworth are occupied by a single person aged 65 or over, and around 40 per cent (10,835) of people aged 65 are over are living alone.

Prof Jaspal said: “I have done a lot of research about health and wellbeing on a national scale but I am particularly interested in Wandsworth because I am a resident of the borough, so it’s really great to have the opportunity to work with the council to look at ways of enhancing health and wellbeing among our residents.

“Combating loneliness and developing a sense of community among our residents is so important because we know that a sense of community means that people enjoy better mental health and better physical health outcomes. We also need to give people a sense of autonomy, resilience and independence to make the decisions that are really going to enhance their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others in their communities.”

He added: “The other thing I would like to help the council with is to develop evidence-based strategies for changing behaviours. It’s about ensuring that residents are able to change their behaviours, adopt more healthy behaviours and for those behaviours to be sustained over a period of time.”