HCM Issue 4 2021

Page 5


The health agenda

In the next issue of HCM we’ll be focusing on health inequality. To contribute, write to lizterry@ leisuremedia.com

Groundbreaking research from around the world is proving the many ways exercise can support health and creating opportunities for the sector to be more valued and useful

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ews that NICE has recommended the prescription of exercise instead of drugs to treat chronic pain (see page 48) is a game-changer for the industry, opening up opportunities for increasingly meaningful contributions to the health agenda at a time when medics are under pressure and need support. On page 50, we discuss ways the activity sector in the UK can deepen partnerships with the health service and – importantly – continue to upskill staff to deliver health services. The aim being to build on great work already being done in prevention and treatment, in areas such as Long-COVID recovery and cancer prehab and rehab. Huge funding is going into COVID-19 research globally, creating a stream of new evidence which proves the connection between physical and mental health, resilience and exercise. A study from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California, for example, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found being inactive more than doubles the risk of dying from COVID-19 (see page 100). We’ve been seeking this kind of evidence for decades, as it gives us an irrefutable case with which to lobby to ‘join the team’ in delivering health interventions. This lobbying is vital, given we’re still not recognised as having this capacity – the recent launch of Fit Miles by the UK government completely bypassed the activity sector, for example, and we debate this omission on page 42. Part of our lobbying must focus on social inequality – a factor that’s deepening the impact of the pandemic and highlighting fundamental issues that must be addressed. A new report, Levelling Up Health, from the UK’s All Party-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity, found there would have been 40,000 fewer deaths in the UK [to March 2020] if the COVID-19 mortality rate had been as low nationally as in the least deprived areas. In launching the report [see page 23], Damian Green, chair of the APPG, said “We need to confront ideologues on the left who argue the state must be responsible for health and the private sector has ‘no place’ and on the right who oppose public health measures as an infringement of liberty.”

Exercise will be prescribed for chronic pain

Many assume this work will fall largely to the public sector, however the private sector will also want to be involved This point is well made – many assume this work will largely fall to the public sector, however, many in the private sector will also want to be involved. Only last month, The Gym Group published independent research showing it has generated £1.8bn in social value since 2016 – the first private sector operator to publish this calculation. Many operators have a challenge ahead to rebuild membership numbers and so supporting the health agenda will be a win:win, opening up new markets and new sources of customers, while also contributing to people’s wellbeing and the COVID-19 recovery. Liz Terry, editor lizterry@leisuremedia.com


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