A PILOT study aimed at developing a pioneering approach to public health has produced positive initial results.
A social enterprise called Sport Works has been working since the start of the year with a range of grass roots organisations in the North-East to assess the value of embedding health and wellbeing into community life.
The ‘Holistic Health’ study focused on promoting healthy activities among more vulnerable and disadvantaged people in local communities, then using them as a forum to introduce health and wellbeing advice and signpost services.
Experienced independent researcher, Dr Christopher Hartworth, has been commissioned to provide robust data throughout the trial, and he has now released his initial findings.
Dr Hartworth, who has 30 years’ experience in social research, says the initiative is proving to be successful in engaging more people to take part in sport and exercise, as well as having a clearly positive impact on their health and wellbeing.
“It’s been a really interesting programme to be involved in, and the results so far are very encouraging,” said Dr Hartworth.
“The project is about tackling inequality in the way health and wellbeing services are delivered, so the study has focused on groups who were generally underserved by existing services – including older people, young people from disadvantaged areas, or perhaps involved in substance misuse, and people with disabilities.
“As a result of the project, we have seen an increase in membership of different sports groups, and that has equated to being able to bring more health services and interventions to underserved groups in the communities covered.
“People say they have felt better, with higher self-esteem, and improved confidence as a result of taking part in the activities, and that’s all having a positive impact on health and wellbeing.”
The pilot has secured wide interest from bodies including Sport England, the Lawn Tennis Association, and Public Health England. It covers from Tees Valley to Tyne and Wear and is being funded directly by Sport Works, with support from Durham County Council for the parts of the trial taking place in County Durham.
A full report on Dr Hartworth’s findings will be produced by the summer, with the data used to help put forward proposals to decision-makers on developing a more community-focused approach to improving public health.