Public health panel discussion : ukactive #moretogether Summit (Dehavilland 22nd November)

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28 November 2012

The panel was comprised:

  • Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre of Public Health Excellence at NICE;
  • Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of the Local Government Association;
  • Mike Farrar CBE, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation

At a panel discussing public health at the ukactive Summit, Professor Mike Kelly acknowledged the problem of health inequalities, and that the damage caused by a lack of physical activity was spread disproportionately across the population.

Ms Downs noted that Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Burnham's earlier comment on tackling the agenda at a time of stringent cuts was particularly poignant and especially relevant to local government.

She continued by saying that public health was very important to local government, but that local councils were limited by spending cuts.

Responding to criticism on the lack of initiative by the NHS to incorporate actions on physical activity, Mr Farrar noted that back in 2002 the evidence on the importance of physical activity was not strong enough to negotiate into practice. He added that the NHS needed to become a much more engaging organisation, involving small or medium enterprises in promoting physical activity.

Professor Kelly said there was a national return on investment in physical activity, but an even greater return on investment for the individual. He added that it was fundamental for the development of healthy children.

In response to a question on the infrastructure required for addressing health issues, Mr Farrar noted that behaviour changes were difficult to implement due to habits developing from immediate environmental cues that negate more beneficial long-term habits.

In terms of Health and Wellbeing Boards, sport was regarded as a crucial component of the prevention agenda, noted Ms Downs.

On the question of volunteer involvement, she added that it was an opportunity for organisations to push their agendas.

NICE guidance on managing physical activity in the workplace was already available, noted Mr Kelly, and there was also a series of local government briefings.

Dr Will Norman

Dr Will Norman, Director of Research at The Young Foundation, delivered his keynote address to the ukactive Summit on "The Move It" report, compiled in conjunction with Nike. The report examined issues surrounding physical activity, particularly for young people getting active for the first time.

The problem of a lack of participation was not unique to the UK, he continued. Physical activity was dropping in countries including the USA, China and Brazil, said Dr Norman.

There were massive costs associated with the problem of inactivity, he reiterated. Working with parents at an early age was vital to driving change, Dr Norman said, and this came from working with young people to figure out what they wanted to do, rather than attempting to impose agendas.

Competitive sport agendas did not work for all youth, Dr Norman added, and there needed to be a method of approaching the most inactive individuals by providing different types of sport activities.

The report, he continued, exhibited shock with how sports were delivered by a large variety of different agencies, institutions and Government bodies, describing it as a "complete nightmare". There needed to be systemic change, Dr Norman added, that brought together small and large businesses, volunteers, and delivery on a local basis.

A comprehensive approach to physical activity for youth needed to examine aligning several different interests, given that the way sports were presently delivered served as a significant barrier to how others became involved, said Dr Norman.

Regarding volunteers, Dr Norman noted that they provided great amounts of energy in driving change, and providing ownership of that change.

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