NOT FOR ME The pandemic made health inequalities worse, but Sport England and UK Active have partnered up to tackle it. Which demographic groups are losing out and what can the health and fitness sector do to include them? Kath Hudson reports…
ccording to CEO Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England wants to get everyone active: “We know certain groups – such as women, people with long-term health conditions, disabled people, people from ethnically diverse communities and lower socio-economic groups – are more likely to be inactive. We can only innovate and tackle inequalities effectively by thinking about long term change.” As a result, Sport England and UK Active have signed a five-year partnership agreement to tackle these inequalities, backed by a £5.25m funding package. Currently, those from the BAME community, the lower socio-economic groups, people with disabilities and deconditioned people are under represented in gyms. They are missing out on the mental and physical benefits of
activity: inactivity is in the top 10 causes of ill health in the UK and the failure to engage widely with these populations is limiting the gym industry’s penetration. Barriers for not engaging are frequently complex, but commonly include a lack of representation, cost and a feeling that the gym environment is not for people like them. It is very important for operators to show these prospective members that you respect them and welcome them to your facility. This includes using diverse imagery across all marketing channels, employing people from these communities and consulting with them about what they want and then following through so they feel comfortable at your facility. Upskilling your staff, including discrimination training, is something to aim for. Most importantly, as you move
towards a more diverse and inclusive environment, steer clear of tokenism and falling into patronising behaviour.
According to Sport England research, black, Asian and Chinese adults are the least active ethnic groups. People of colour lack representation in the health and fitness industry and even when they are employed there is not necessarily a culture of inclusion. Swimming in particular has been called out as failing to meet the needs of black people. Research by the Black Swimming Association found that 95 per cent of black adults, 80 per cent of black children, 93 per cent of Asian adults and 79 per cent of Asian children in England either can’t or don’t swim. Between 2016 and 2019, of the 10 per www.HCMhandbook.com