Last week I attended an incredible conference in Westminster; the UK Active Summit all about sports and health. There was an illustrious line up of speakers, including Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Matt Hancock, former Cabinet Secretary Gus O’Donnell, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard Chair of the RCGP and many others. It was a fabulous event.
The underlying message focused on the importance of exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle. Improvements in these elements would lead to a healthier population overall. The conference was totally in line with the Health Profile for England Report and introducing the new Social Prescribing policy.
There were a number of highlights during the day:
Steps to improve the health and welfare of the whole population:
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson opened with a wonderfully balanced and informative presentation.
The Baroness appealed to political party leaders to commit to improving the nation’s health in their manifestos for the forthcoming General Election.
The Baroness said she has written to the leaders of all the main political parties, asking them all to address four policy calls in their election pledges:
- Opening schools as community hubs to support children and families, to make the most of the physical space during the holidays. She announced that children currently lose a shocking 80% of their fitness over the school holidays. This decline in physical health has major implications for their academic attainment when returning to school in September.
- Improving accessibility to active travel and wider activity opportunities for the nation’s workforce. Thinking wider around this, redesigning workplaces, stand up desks, encouraging them to walk up the stairs and introducing other simple healthy initiatives within workplaces.
- Thinking laterally about regenerating our high streets by making it easier for exercise companies to apply for a change of use some of the high street. Also thinking about the high street users to make them more fun and accessible for everyone and encourage people to walk up there. She wants to encourage fitness and leisure operators to open on the high street and across town developments on a larger scale.
- Supporting older adults to access the health benefits of physical activity and make it easier for them to live a healthy and active life.
An introduction to social prescribing:
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, the Chair of the RCGP gave a warm and enlightening presentation about the role of General Practitioners in improving the nation’s health. This is in line with the BMA report on inequalities for health and making it simple and easy to change behaviours and do the right thing.
Helen introduced the National Academy of Social Prescribing that was launched last week by Baroness Tanni Gray-Thompson. The idea is that GPs will take a more holistic approach to caring for their population. The GP will refer to Social Provider Link Workers who are responsible for visiting the individual and learning more about their needs and motivations and referring them to other non-medication health improvements. The idea is that everyone on long term prescription will also receive an activity prescription.
Helen’s presentation also referred to the report Fit for Future – A vision for General Practice http://arma.uk.net/fit-for-the-future-general-practice/
Reducing youth violence through sports & health:
I also attended a fascinating breakout on challenging youth violence through physical activity. This was a session full of common sense. The panel was chaired by Professor Rosie Meek, who briefed the government on their youth crime consultation – eleven of her twelve recommendations for prisons have been implemented. The only recommendation that was not taken forwarded would have permitted prisoners to participate in boxing or martial arts. The impressive Olympic Boxer, Anthony Ogogo (one on the panel speakers), clearly took issue with this and was quick to articulate the major benefits he had experienced throughout his life.
Solomon Curtis was another panel speaker. Solomon is the Project and Communication Manager for Sport and Serious Youth Violence for the Mayor’s Office in Greater London. Solomon works with Greater London and puts the youth he is trying to help at the heart of his decisions. Rachel Roxborough, CEO of Dallaglio Sport, was also on the panel, explaining the difference that belonging makes to young people and the pivotal role of sport and youth workers in helping children make good life choices. Macdonald Mide was a 17 year old youth representative, gave a talk explaining how Football Beyond Borders changed his life and given him opportunities and a new direction that he never previously could have imagined.
We were privileged to hear Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill DBE being interviewed by a fellow Olympian Professor Greg Whyte OBE. What incredible drive and energy! Fabulous to see the motivation and support that her new Jennis app is giving to new mums. Offering professional support and advice on safe and appropriate exercise for new mums, both antenatally and postnatally.
The importance of putting disability at the heart of our businesses:
One of the most engaging speakers was a lady called Caroline Casey – the founder of the Valuable 500. She was the most engaging speaker I have ever encountered. She had everyone continuously mesmerised and continuously vacillating from tears to laughter. She is on a mission to change the business mindset concerning disability. She is starting at the top and has a year to sign up 500 of the most influential companies in the world – employing over 1,000 people. She wants them to commit to offer an inclusive workplace where people feel empowered to ask for help if they need it, rather than hide a disability for fear of discrimination.
Of the 1.3 billion people with a disability, over 80% of these disabilities are invisible. 15%-20% of the population are disabled.
Everyone gains from this approach and disability is likely to affect all of us at some point in our lives. Caroline’s story is incredible and extremely compelling – she is a truly amazing lady.
Written by Emma Hammett RGN
First Aid for Life aims to support all aspects of healthy living though accident prevention and first aid training. Encouraging people to be more proactive in their approach to risks and helping to reduce the incidence of avoidable accidents that are major contributors to morbidity and mortality. Prompt and appropriate first aid saves lives and can prevent minor injuries becoming major ones. The more people empowered with these skills, the better for the population as a whole.