Sport England announces funding to tackle inactivity in East as research reveals huge cost to NHS

Thousands of the least active people in the East of England are to benefit from Sport England funding for four projects to get them moving.

The initiatives are among 14 projects across England receiving £5.8 million funding from Sport England’s Get Healthy Get Into Sport fund. The announcement comes as new figures published by Sport England reveal that the cost of inactivity to the NHS in the East of England is almost £104 million.

Sport England’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said: “We are paying a heavy price for inactivity both in terms of people’s health and the burden on the NHS. These lottery-funded projects will help tens of thousands of people to get healthier and demonstrate the value of investing in sport and physical activity.

From the start of April, local authorities take on responsibility for public health. Sport and physical activity is among the areas where a budget of £5.45bn can be invested over the next two years.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “If physical activity was a drug it would be regarded as a miracle, so everyone must take this seriously.

“Even relatively small amounts of exercise can have huge benefits to your health and help prevent serious health conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease for example, adults can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of ten minutes or more.

“Everyone has a role to play and providing opportunities for those least active to get involved in sport could make a big difference to the nation’s fitness.”

Backed by £423,000 of Sport England funding, NHS Bedfordshire will use motivational interviewing sessions combined with a new rapid sports referral system, to encourage inactive people to get more active before helping them to find local opportunities to do sport.

Craig Lister from NHS Bedfordshire said: “This is a fantastic example of partnership working across health, the County Sports Partnership, UKactive and local authorities. This programme will use sport in an innovative manner, supporting people to move away from unhealthy lifestyles in a sustainable and enjoyable way. Using local sports coaches and a rapid referral system, while people are still in a position of wanting to change, should lead to improved outcomes and better health.”

Suffolk County Council has been awarded £424,000 for its project to help people being supported within the health service to develop a long-term involvement in sport. For example people on courses to help them manage their weight or quit smoking will be helped to get involved in sporting activity in their local community.

Suffolk’s Most Active County manager, said: “In Suffolk, we’ve set ourselves an ambitious target of becoming the most active county in England and this National Lottery funding from Sport England will make a real difference.

“As our legacy from London 2012, we are determined to reduce levels of inactivity across Suffolk. Through this project, we’ll be able to help people move from health care directly into playing sport and more active lifestyles. We’re thrilled with this news and are looking forward to launching the project in the summer.”

Active Norfolk will work with Public Health Norfolk and the University of East Anglia to test different ways of recruiting inactive people into sport. Demonstration events will introduce people to a range of sports and they will then be able sign up for a 12-week course in their favourite activity. Sport England is investing £450,000 in the project.

Nick Clarke from Active Norfolk and Norfolk’s Public Health Team said: “This investment from Sport England into Norfolk will make a significant difference in being able to identify and recruit those people who are most inactive and give them the opportunity to take part in a variety of sports. Working closely with the County Public Health team and the UEA we believe we can increase activity and sustain levels of sport in the county which will make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing. Partnership working and consultation with the communities of Norfolk and its local sports infrastructure will make for a project which will answer questions about the most effective ways of engaging and recruiting those people who don’t take part in sport and designing projects that they want to get involved in.”

Macmillan Cancer Care is receiving half a million pounds to open up fresh sporting opportunities for cancer patients in 10 parts of the country, including Luton.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Every year in the UK hundreds of millions of pounds is spent on drugs to help prevent and treat cancer. However being physically active significantly helps reduce the side-effects from gruelling treatment and for some cancers can prevent recurrence and death. If exercise was a drug, it would be a wonder drug. This funding will go a long way to ensure that thousands of cancer patients are not missing out.”

Physical Inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality after high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose.