Hardwiring Physical Activity into the new landscape for Health in Essex

Jason's Reflections

Reflections by Director, Jason Fergus

As my first reflections blog, I wanted to take a moment to share what I’ve learnt over the past few weeks, around the changing landscape within the Essex health system and how we’re working hard to position physical activity as a priority for all.

Place-based working has developed over the past few years to be the cornerstone of how Active Essex operates, and this has given us a real advantage in aligning with the rapidly changing health system in Essex.

Recently, I presented at two important health conferences – the MSE In Action Conference and the Can-Do Health and Care Expo which saw the birth of the new health Integrated Care System (ICS) partnerships.

I was joined by two eminent doctors – Dr Ronan Fenton, Medical Director of Mid and South Essex ICS and Dr William Bird, GP, national expert on physical activity, to advocate that physical activity must be a top priority in the work of the new ICS’s. At both conferences, there was universal support from people who work right across the NHS that promoting active lifestyles is essential to prevent illness and ensure better health and mental wellbeing. As one delegate said, “Physical Activity is a gamechanger.” I genuinely feel that with the creation of the new ICS’s and their clear prioritisation on prevention, collaboration with non-NHS partners, and community place-based services, that there is an open door to make physical activity business as usual for the NHS.

Another opportunity also became clear to me. A number of health colleagues told us that the Active Essex campaign called Find Your Active   which was launched in the summer of 2021 has been very well received. The campaign has taken on a life of its own and is now owned by the people, not just us. The campaign has naturally evolved into its own brand and without realising, paved the way for the future of Active Essex and the sector’s strategy Fit for the Future. Ambassadors for Find Your Active such as Dr Fenton and Dr Bird are driving the campaign forward. My reflection is that to engage with huge and complex systems such as health, it is important to have a clear and simple message that everyone can get behind such as ‘Find Your Active’.

I am excited about the new changes to the health system in Essex, and I feel that the place-based teams in Active Essex are very well positioned to ensure physical activity is a central part of the work of our three new ICS’s. Through attending both of these conferences, I hope we will continue to drive the message that there is an activity out there for everyone, it’s just about finding what’s right for you.