Importance of Physical Activity : Summary: ukactive #moretogether Summit (Dehavilland 22nd November)

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28 November 2012

Opening ukactive's "More Together" Summit, Chairman Fred Turok emphasised the importance of embedding physical activity into communities across Britain.

He continued to say that physical activity was crucial to public health, and in schools, it was particularly critical to battling obesity in children. Mr Turok then questioned, whether, as part of a national framework, physical activity should be prescribed by GPs.

Focussing on a shift from a national to localised agenda, he concluded that local authorities played a leading role in promoting such activities.

Rebranding

CEO David Stalker presented several important achievements in the fitness industry, including music-licensing advancing, advising the medical community on the promotion of exercise in preventing or curing disease, and the innovative new digital legacy project called "spogo.co.uk" that was developed along with Sport England.

He added that partners such as ASDA and Coca Cola were crucial.

Noting that the sector had shifted since the FIA was first founded, Mr Stalker concluded that a rebranding was necessary in order to expand the activity that the association could engage in.

He revealed the new brand as ukactive, and pointed out that it had met positive reinforcement from other agencies such as Youth Sports Trust, Sport England and individual ministers such as Hugh Robertson and Anna Soubry.

Concluding, Mr Stalker asserted that ukactive would "embed" physical activity into the lifestyles of individuals across the country, and promote the agenda of "more people, more active, more often".

Anna Soubry MP

Delivering her Public Health Keynote to the ukactive Summit, Conservative Health Minister Anna Soubry said that participating in sport at school would set the standard for the rest of one's life.

Speaking on the Government's plan for public health, she noted that the golden opportunity provided by the Olympic and Paralympic Games needed to be seized. The challenge, she said, was instituting a lasting sporting behaviour in people.

The Public Health Responsibility Deal, Ms Soubry added, was one way to ensure that local industry leaders could help to achieve activity goals.

She said that physical inactivity had cost the NHS over 1bn pounds per year, going on to describe it as a "pandemic" with far-reaching consequences.

Ms Soubry then went on to outline three goals of collective responsibility. She said the first was establishing a better understanding of the benefits of physical activity. The second, she continued, involved deploying a range of approaches to change peoples' behaviour. Finally, ensuring people have the opportunities to engage in an active lifestyle was crucial, she said.

Government needed to implement effective delivery infrastructure. Responsibility for public health returning to local authorities in April of next year, she said. They could work to improve public health, she noted.

Public Health England would provide the necessary leadership to make the case for investment in public health, said Ms Soubry, but implementation would rely on local governments.

Continuing, she said local Health and Wellbeing boards would be a way for people across sectors to come together and encourage integrated services in their communities.

Ms Soubry also pointed out that the Government had a duty to reduce health inequalities, adding that children from deprived backgrounds were the most overweight. Accordingly, she said, the agenda should be not only geared toward competitive sport but also toward developing a range of opportunities that appeal to the least active children.

Responding to a question from the audience on why GPs do not prescribe more physical activity to their patients, Ms Soubry said that GPs feel pressure to prescribe medication rather than activity.

One audience member wondered whether that was because GPs were rewarded on the basis of their prescription of drugs and not for the prescription of activity. Ms Soubry responded that because GPs were to become responsible for their own budgets, they would feel an incentive to reduce their prescription budgets.

On the topic of how local surgeries could partner with small business, Ms Soubry reinforced that the private sector could work well in integrating care, and that local councillors and local MPs would also be useful.

Making sure that children spent more time participating in sport and physical activity would be crucial, she concluded, in improving public health for the future of Britain.

Andy Burnham MP

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham addressed the ukactive Summit by calling for a cross-party approach to public health.

He reflected on the positive experience of producing London 2012, and asserted that the same approach could be used again in order to build a more active and healthy nation.

Britain was in danger of missing the Olympic moment, Mr Burnham added, noting that physical activity numbers were stagnant.

Obesity, said Mr Burnham, was on the rise, and England was proclaimed the "most obese nation in Europe" according to an OECD report. There was no real evidence, he continued to say, that the Government was getting tougher with the food industry or promoting more physical activity.

One problem, pointed out Mr Burnham, was that there was no one department assigned with the core responsibility of physical activity. Rather, he concluded, all Government departments that had a stake would need to unite.

As such, he promised to write a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, urging him to use his power to address the pressing issue.

A new cross-party national ambition for a more physically active nation was to be Mr Burnham's core suggestion. By 2025, he wanted to raise participation in sport to 50 per cent.

Mr Burnham warned that if the cycle of inactivity was not broken, the costs to the economy would rise over the years.

Three things would need to change, according to Mr Burnham.

First, he said, there needed to be a culture change in communities. Particularly, streets needed to return to pedestrians and cyclists rather than be dominated by cars. Councils needed to reprioritise the roads and put cyclists and pedestrians first over the motorists.

Next, he advocated a culture change in schools, with school sports at the centre of the education system rather than at the fringes. This included, he said, not only traditional sports but also those that students wanted to participate in.

Finally, he said, there required a culture change in media, with more women represented. Mr Burnham applauded coverage of women in the Olympics, but outside of the Games, the profile given to women sports by all media outlets was negligible.

Mr Burnham pointed out that the Department of Health had to lead on the issue of physical activity because the DCMS did not have the appropriate budget.

Responding to a question on sport in state schools, Mr Burnham noted that kids taking part in inter-school competitive sport was on the increase, and in order to avoid having to cut academics, there had to be other efforts such as extending school days or providing extracurricular activities.

One audience member asked whether sugary products should be banned at schools. Mr Burnham replied that in the next Labour public health review, he would ask whether maximum legal limits could be set on the sugar in fizzy drinks and food advertised for children.

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