David Gent, CEO, Active Humber reflects on the recent Active Humber spring conference
Posted: Thu, 21 Mar 2019 09:12
The conference has certainly caused me to reflect on why we are still not seeing the changes in physical activity levels we all so desire.
The sector is certainly blessed with lots of information on the value of physical activity with many interesting and informative infographics from Public Health England, Sport England and others. Physical activity also features strongly in the United Nations sustainable development goals and there are many, many studies showing how levels of inactivity across the globe are causing premature deaths. Yet, despite all this compelling evidence and research there has been no improvement since 2001 in global activity levels.
For all of us working in this field, it does feel our collective efforts are simply not having the impact we all desire.
Perhaps we are but the change is yet to show? Levels of people smoking have declined since the late 1960s, and key to that decline have been consistent and repeated messaging. Finland, by taking a cross sector approach has managed to reduce levels of inactivity. Is it that our efforts so far have not been consistent enough in messaging and cross sector approaches?
I certainly believe we have a strong policy framework at a national level through the Public Health England - Physical activity framework, Sport England Towards and Active Nation, numerous polices on walking and cycling as well as the recently published World Health Organisation Global Plan for Physical Activity.
I believe our challenge is that physical activity is a 'wicked issue' that has developed because of societal, cultural, economic and environmental changes over time. Wicked issues as the research shows, are always those issues which cannot be solved in a linear and simple way and require a complex and integrated response. Therefore, I believe if we are to crack this wicked issue in the Humber, physical activity needs to be 'everyone's business' as a 'golden thread' through relevant strategies and plans to create a movement for change.
Dr Mike Brannan, National Lead for Physical Activity, Public Health England made the excellent point that if we only had a 30 second 'elevator pitch' for a local authority elected member or other key policy maker regarding why they should prioritise physical activity in their area, what would you say? I am not sure many of us who are passionate about this policy area could do that in a compelling and concise way. Is this an area we all need to improve in?
To solve the many 'wicked issues' of social policy, the current trend is to adopt a whole-systems approach, as essential for developing a cross-sector, place based, long-term approaches for addressing 'wicked issues' such as physical activity with a real focus on purpose, people and place. We all want the change now but what is clear from what has worked across the World is that the change will take time and therefore we must consider both short-term and long-term objectives to gain support and build momentum.
The Active Humber approach over the next 12 months is to do three things well and to become an exemplar Active Partnership by;
1. Using a collaborative approach – stakeholders jointly develop and taking ownership
2. A cross-sector range of actions – areas of activity with short, medium- and long-term actions
3. Being dynamic and flexible – actions aligned, monitored, reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis
So, at Active Humber we are committed to working with partners in each of the 4 Local Authorities to address the 'wicked issue' of physical activity through a 'whole systems' approach. To make physical activity 'everybody's business' by influencing, supporting and delivering with partners the local priorities on physical activity of both 'quick wins' and longer-term strategic developments to give us all the pace of change we all so desire in this area.
We all at Active Humber look forward to next 12 months making this happen with you.