Levelling Up Health & Wellbeing
Good physical and mental health is our most precious asset in life. The benefits of physical activity to our health are so enormous that it is described as a ‘miracle drug’ by the world’s leading scientists. That’s before we talk about the indisputable link between being physically active and good mental health.
Strong communities are so important for Essex residents, they create a sense of belonging and purpose, which has a dramatic impact on supporting individuals health and wellbeing. People who feel connected to their community have better health outcomes and a sense of wellbeing.
Physical activity will be the foundation to recondition people who have been affected by Covid-19, especially the most at-risk groups. People living in the most disadvantaged communities face the worst health inequalities. An active lifestyle significantly increases the likelihood of better health, and Active Essex are prioritising broadening their understanding of why people are sedentary, which is often associated with a person’s capability, motivation, and opportunities to be active.
A key area of focus for Active Essex has been to use targeted physical activity interventions to support and enable local residents who have become deconditioned following the effects of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions.
The impact of Covid 19 has had a significant effect on many people accessing healthcare and support, no more so that those living with long-term health conditions. These individuals often have interactions with their GP surgery and frequently need the intervention of healthcare services in the form of treatment and routine appointments for outpatients. These individuals along with many others have looked to alternative sources for guidance and direction in managing their conditions.
Research carried out ahead of the behaviour change campaign, Find Your Active, demonstrated that key messaging is vital in changing people’s perceptions of what physical activity is. Deconditioned adults were defined as a key target audience and through this campaign Active Essex have been able to engage residents and break down this common stereotype around what ‘physical activity and sport’ truly means. It’s just about finding what’s right for you.
The partnership between Active Essex and the new providers of the Essex Community Wellbeing Service has helped ensure frontline staff and volunteers are confident and competent to have a conversation about moving more and are aware of the opportunities to signpost residents to. This has been particularly successful through the Find Your Active care home workshops; delivering training to staff and providing activity kits to aid activities among care home residents.
Further developing the partnership working with health and community partners is leading to building fully integrated care pathways for many services including falls prevention and increasing the provision of strength, balance, and movement interventions across Essex. Through this work it is hoped that this will have a positive impact on the NHS and community elective waiting lists and enable and empower people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.
Work among care systems began before the Fit for the Future strategy was constructed but remains an important part of levelling up health and wellbeing. Their work aims to build capacity and capabilities within health and social care systems embedding physical activity and movement.
Hardwiring physical activity and movement as a preventative tool will engage and influence the health and social care systems to reduce the demand on services and influence system budgets to be realigned, focussing on prevention.
The Essex Local Delivery Pilots’, Prevention and Enablement Model (PEM) is a test and learn, whole system change social care initiative, which is helping to improve the lives of people living with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions. This work has been strengthened through the partnership with the Adult Social Care sector across the county to deliver this initiative, particularly in care homes. Working collaboratively to embed and use physical activity as a tool within the health and social care system, has helped increase the confidence and capability across the integrated workforce.
Particular work within care systems has seen the Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme provide training within Primary Care Networks to upskill staff to be confident in having conversations with patients about physical activity and map local physical activity provision. Active Essex hope that by providing training and support such as this, and the Find Your Active care home workshops it will help to build resilience and knowledge of the power of positive movement and physical activity.
In addition to staff workshops, Active Essex decided to take a different approach to engage care home residents through a digital platform provided by Mr Motivator. These were really well received, and work is undergoing to develop this relationship further building on the success we have already seen.
Over the past year, social prescribing has been propelled across the county, as it is more highly recognised that not everything can be cured by medication.
In 2021, Active Essex became the host agency for the Regional Physical Activity Social Prescribing Advisor, with the remit to gather and share learnings with partners nationally, regionally, and locally.
This post is allowing to support the inclusion of high-quality sport and physical activity within social prescribing schemes and services, to ensure that physical activity opportunities are accessible, inclusive, and supportive for all. An example of systems working together can be seen through Basildon’s Local Delivery Pilot funded, Dancing on Prescription; a programme which uses low impact dance moves as an alternative method to encourage residents to lead a healthier, and active lifestyle.
Social prescribing helps connect people to community support, based on what matters to them and address issues affecting their health and wellbeing. Our continued work on social prescribing forms one part of a larger puzzle of how the sport and physical activity sector connects to health and wellbeing, supporting local groups to provide better opportunities for individuals coming through this pathway.Kimberley White, Physical Activity Social Prescribing Advisor
Empowering employees to live a better work life balance is becoming a priority for many. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that workplaces need to take on more of a responsibility by encouraging employees to look after their wellbeing. Active Essex are championing the role physical activity and movement plays within this, not only for the employee, but also highlighting the benefits for the employer.
Today, the mental and physical health of our Essex workforce has never been more important to contribute to the wellbeing of all employees and the development and prosperity of the Essex economy. Being in good quality work supports health and wellbeing because work is an important source of social status, and offers an income to participate in society and to live a healthy life.
As well as amplifying apps such as Street Tag and Active10 for workplaces to utilise, Find Your Active launched a Workplace Edition in January 2022 to support staff wellbeing, as we deal with the impacts from the pandemic. The 12-month initiative is providing resources and challenges, as well as designing a policy to encourage workplaces to adopt good wellbeing practices, all in partnership with Essex Working Well Scheme and Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership.
Through the Find Your Active campaign, Active Essex have made a start in engaging workplaces to support their employees to get active. With over 100 workplaces regularly interacting with resources and guidance from Find Your Active: Workplace Edition, it's been great to see so many support the monthly focuses of Big Team Challenges and mental health activities. The initial findings of Find Your Active suggested that time was a barrier to getting active, therefore encouraging employees to move more whilst at work or travelling to and from, helps remove this barrier and supports better mental and physical health of staff.