Time for a fresh approach
Posted: Fri, 02 Jun 2023 12:50
We are at a crossroads for health and wellbeing.
On many measures of health and general wellbeing the figures this decade have not been great! And these poor figures including health inequalities are greatest in the lowest socio economic groups. Yet too much of sport and physical activity and fitness is aimed at getting the active more active. So what are we going to do differently?
Of course we know this is not universally true. The sport for development and charity sectors as well as some mainstream sport and Physical activity organisations are trying to tackle these inequalities around their fringes. The Sport England Strategy is about Uniting the Movement for all and specifically about tackling these 'stubborn' inequalities. But they are stubborn because the underlying factors that determine these inequalities persist. Sport and physical activity is a marginal policy when tackling the lives of these people and groups. A bit more physical activity isn't going to solve poverty, housing and the other wider social determinants of health. And we have to stop pretending otherwise.
We know the debate is taking place around shifting towards health related outcomes for the 'leisure sector ' and we applaud those who are leading some great good practice. But is it far from the mainstream. In an article in HCM Debbie Bellinger outlines the problem.
The industry has been built on the path of least resistance by people who are passionate about exercise, but all we're doing is getting the fit fitter. With a switch in focus, we have the opportunity to deliver health and wellness education to the masses.
We applaud the contribution sport and physical activity can make to society. But we need to really clear what those benefits are. Who is benefitting and who should pay for their delivery. We sill feel in too much of the widest possible definition of the sector people feel sport and PA is good therefore it should be funded by government in some way? We fully understand the sector is getting much better at evidencing its impact. But so is every other sector. Because people in sport are passionate they forget that every other advocacy body is equally passionate about their role in society. And this is where is gets difficult. Politicians have to make tough choices about the allocation of resources. There are 7.4 million people on NHS waiting lists. These are the short term priority for any government and whilst the talk about prevention is really positive, given the resource restraints we are not convinced there will be £billions available anytime soon. Let's not wait for the health service funding rescue.
It is a political/philosophical question about where government can and should intervene in the market. Given these constraints shouldn't all efforts be put into tackling the inequalities in our population health? And the funding allocations should reflect this. Or will we carry on keeping the worried well active still for another generation?