Brunel University is working with local partners in health and community sport to get some of the least active people in London moving, after research revealed the huge cost of physical inactivity to the NHS.
Five innovative projects which focus on engaging inactive people across London have been awarded a total of more than £2 million of National Lottery investment by Sport England’s ‘Get Healthy Get Into Sport’ Fund. Alongside partners from the London Borough of Hounslow, Brunel will deliver the Health and Sport Engagement (HASE) project, which aims to train sport coaches and health practitioners across 15 different sports to develop combined engagement strategies.
The project, which will receive £354,000 of funding, follows two years of research-practice collaboration between the Brunel Centre for Sport, Health and Wellbeing (BCSHaW) and the London Borough of Hounslow. BCSHaW researchers and colleagues Professor Julia Fox-Rushby and Dr Nana Anokye from the Health Economics Research Group (HERG) will conduct the evaluation.
Initial activities will include running focus groups to understand inactivity and barriers to sport participation for local residents, training sport coaches to tailor activities to the needs of previously inactive people, training health professionals to signpost appropriate opportunities, and delivering new monitored and evaluated activities to assess health and wellbeing outcomes.
Project Director Dr Louise Mansfield said: “We are delighted to receive this funding from Sport England to work with experienced partners to deliver sport in ways which really do work for inactive people. The project will have enormous and immediate benefit for Hounslow’s diverse community, and our rigorous evaluation of the sport, health and economic outcomes of the HASE approach will ensure that the lessons learned from promoting health through sport engagement are captured for the wider sport and health community.”
Cllr Ajmer Grewal, cabinet member for leisure and public health at Hounslow Council, added: “We are delighted to be working with Brunel University in this innovative and exciting project, and we are looking forward to supporting its delivery and wider engagement through our Community Sport and Physical Activity Network.
“With responsibility for public health lying with local authorities from 1 April, this is a great example of how we can support a different approach to health within the community. We will be looking to see how the lessons we learn from the project can inform how we deliver sport in the Borough in the future.”
New figures published by Sport England reveal that the cost of inactivity to the NHS was £131 million in London and over £900 million in England as a whole in 2009/10. Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality after high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose.
The Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “If physical activity was a drug it would be regarded as a miracle, so everyone must take this seriously.
“Even relatively small amounts of exercise can have huge benefits to your health and help prevent serious health conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Adults can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of ten minutes or more.
“Everyone has a role to play and providing opportunities for those least active to get involved in sport could make a big difference to the nation’s fitness.”
Sport England’s Chief Executive Jennie Price concluded: “We are paying a heavy price for inactivity both in terms of people’s health and the burden on the NHS. These lottery-funded projects will help tens of thousands of people to get healthier and demonstrate the value of investing in sport and physical activity.”