In Vaulx-en-Velin, a health center where “people feel heard”

In the medical consultation office, a colorful poster catches the eye. It offers DIY workshops (laying parquet, painting, earthenware), to set up a “well-being space” in the health center. Involve patients for work in care rooms? The principle is surprising. But here, the involvement of those we call “users” is at the very heart of the project.

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Opened in October 2018 at the foot of a tower in the Ecoin-Thibaude district, in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), Santé commune is a participatory health center (also called “community”), a model of care that is still not widely used in France. “The idea of ​​this well-being space is to offer people living in the street a place to take a shower and take care of themselves before going to see the doctor”, explains Camille Salmon, project manager in this self-managed structure. In short, allow access to hygiene before access to care for precarious people, many in this town of about 50,000 inhabitants of East Lyonnais.

The entrance to the common health center, at the foot of a building in the Thibaude district, in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), September 14, 2021.
Camille Salmon, project manager at Santé commune, in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), September 14, 2021.

Every week, six to eight people from the neighborhood come to work on the site. The opportunity to give new impetus to the participatory dimension of the center, stopped by the Covid-19 pandemic. Beyond the acquisition of skills for laying tiles or carpentry, it is, for the participants, a means of “Work on self-esteem, links with others”, valued Camille Salmon, social worker by training.

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While waiting for the inauguration of the future wellness area, the Vaudois already have something to feel at ease in the smart and spacious premises (330 m2) from the health center. On the walls, the many posters are written in “FALC” (easy to read and understand), with illustrations, a tool that promotes understanding of the messages by audiences with little knowledge of the French language or with disabilities …

In the common health waiting room, in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), September 14, 2021.
In the common health waiting room in Vaulx-en-Velin (Rhône), hot drinks are available to everyone.  Here, September 14, 2021.

Followed or not by health professionals from the center, everyone is free to push the door, to help themselves a coffee or just to chat. An unconditional welcome that surprises some. Like Joëlle Ayme, 78 years old, and her husband, 83 years old, inhabitants of Vaulx-en-Velin for more than forty years, in her village part. “When we came here for the first time, when our family doctor retired, it was weird to see these people who were there for coffee., she recalls. I, who am from the old school, found that it was wrong with a doctor’s office. My friends had the same thinking. “

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