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INTELLIGENT HEALTH has launched a brand-new multi-sector Advisory Panel to further advance the organisation’s mission to tackle inequalities, create resilience and improve the nation’s health by connecting people to each other, their communities and their environment. The Advisory Panel aims to reach communities on a national scale by exploring whole system approaches to public health, helping to bridge the gap between sectors using physical activity as a tool for social cohesion, pride in place and connection to the natural environment.

The delivery of this multi-sector approach will be piloted through the Sport England funded Beat the Street programme developed by Intelligent Health; an evidence-based, population-level, cost-effective behaviour change programme designed to increase physical activity levels across a community.

Intelligent Health has worked to build active communities since its inception in 2010 and became a Sport England System and Delivery Partner in May 2022 working towards the delivery of the latter’s 10-year strategy ‘Uniting the Movement’. This Advisory Panel will provide strategic insight, experience, and challenge to drive forward how better to deliver change in a place, build connections and engage communities effectively for a greater impact. It will also be a means for the Panel to establish ways to work together.

The first face-to-face meeting will take place on Tuesday 21 March 2023 at the Lost Gardens of Heligan. This meeting will bring together members of the Panel, which consists of experts in their sectors who understand the urgent need to work together to create happier, healthier neighbourhoods where people can feel a sense of belonging.

The Panel will be sharing their expertise, knowledge, and connections to help achieve the goal of delivering system-wide public health solutions through the vehicle of shared outcomes.

Chairing the Panel is Dr William Bird MBE, Intelligent Health’s founder and practising GP who is widely regarded for his contributions to health and physical activity, having encouraged people in the UK to get active since the 1990s.

Dr William Bird said: “Our world is changing, and we too must change with it. The demands of a modern lifestyle to not often prioritise our health needs as part of an essential for humanity to survive in the same way that we need food and water. Our bodies are meant to be active and we’re designed to be connected to nature. Research has proven this to be true for many years, and the time to act is now if we are to thrive as a race. A person’s health is determined by a sense of belonging, feeling safe and being valued. All of these have been ravaged by Covid. Our job now is to help individuals recover by reducing the chronic stress that has engulfed communities getting them back on their feet and so helping to reduce poor health”

Following the Covid 19 pandemic, the cost-of-living increase and the ongoing climate crisis, communities are in fight or flight mode and are trying to survive. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths globally. WHO guidelines recommend that adults should be doing a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week. Children under 16 should be doing at least 60 minutes every day in order to stay healthy and prevent developing long-term conditions. Nationally only 61.4% of adults and 47.2% of children meet these guidelines for physical activity (Active Lives Children and Young People Survey 2021-2022)

Matt Leach, Panel Member and CEO at Local Trust said: “In many places, residents have identified increasing physical activity as central to their vision – both as a way of addressing and improving the physical and mental wellbeing of local people, but also as a key contributor to strengthening social capital – the trust, relationships and networks that contribute to making any neighborhood a good place to live. I’m hugely excited about the potential of the Advisory Panel, which has brought together an impressive and broad-based group of academics, experts, practitioners, and policy makers”

Data collated via Intelligent Health’s Beat the Street programme has indicated that delivery in the most disadvantaged of communities, has the most impact on health. Those living in these communities typically suffer from lower life expectancies, higher rates of comorbidities such as Type II Diabetes, hypertensive disease, and obesity, and are more likely to live inactive lives. From 2018 to 2021, Beat the Street was commissioned in various localities across England which amounted to an impressive 401,964 participants being active in their local area. A quarter of all those who took part were from the most disadvantaged communities, overrepresenting demographics from the lowest Indices of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) deciles. Based on matched data, 68,561 people who were inactive before the game remained active 12 months later.[i] It is exactly in these underrepresented communities, that we are seeking to develop and sustain engagement with through the Panel’s whole-system approach.

The Panel will continue to meet regularly on a remote basis and in person quarterly for planning and progress updates.

[i] Sport England Beat the Street Programme (2018 – 2021). Reading: Intelligent Health