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Disabled people are currently the least active group in society, and twice as likely as non-disabled people to be physically inactive. Healthcare professionals are an important point of contact, and system of referral, for disabled people looking to be active. Evidence shows that one in four patients would be more active if advised by a healthcare professional[i]. Ahead of World Health Day, Activity Alliance releases a short feature film for healthcare professionals on supporting disabled people to be active.

Highlighting how health and sport organisations can work together effectively to break down barriers, the national charity hopes it leads to more local and national collaboration. In partnership with Public Health England and supported by Sport England, the film introduces the urgent case for change so more disabled people can reap physical and mental health benefits.

As well as highlighting excellent examples, the film contributors give advice on ways others can embed sport and activity into their work. It compliments the Moving Healthcare Professionals programme, led by Sport England and Public Health England. In the film, leaders from Public Health England and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists outline how greater health outcomes can come through an active lifestyle. With support from healthcare professionals, disabled people and people with long-term health conditions can take part in more opportunities.

One of the contributors, Dr Mike Brannan, National Lead for Physical Activity at Public Health England said:

“There are 11.5 million disabled people in England[ii] but they are twice as likely to be inactive than non-disabled people[iii]. This highlights a continued barrier that prevents disabled people from being active.

“It is important that disabled people do not miss out on the benefits of being active and there is great work being undertaken in England to address these inequalities. Activity Alliance’s new health video highlights the significant potential in the health and sport sector working to support disabled people being more active.”

Genevieve Smyth, Professional Advisor at Royal College of Occupational Therapists, said:

“Supporting people to take part in their chosen sport or other physical activity should be everybody’s business in health care. Making personalised care a reality means focusing on people’s strengths, balancing choice and risk. It’s too easy to think sport is risky or too difficult. Many of the barriers disabled people face to physical activity are attitudinal and healthcare professionals need to recognise that physical activity as a clinically effective intervention. Environments can be adapted and activities can be changed to make them accessible, but this only works if we initiate and then consistently build physical activity into health interventions.”

Sport for Confidence is one initiative featured in the new film. A social enterprise that runs throughout Essex, the team supports people who face barriers to participation to get involved in a variety of sporting activities in mainstream settings.

Representatives from Yorkshire Sport Foundation’s Creating Connections programme talk about their success at a regional level. This referral programme operates across South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. They aim to change lives by supporting local people to get involved in community sport and activity. We hear from visually impaired bowls player, Leanne, on how Creating Connections has supported her to be active again and how it benefits her health.

Barry Horne, Activity Alliance Chief Executive, said:

“Our research shows that seven in ten disabled people want to be more active[iv], but participation is not growing at the rate it needs to. There is significant work to do and we cannot do it alone. Collaboration, especially with disabled people, is key to changing the status quo. We are delighted to work with key leaders in health and sport to ensure more disabled people have access to and enjoy opportunities to be active. This film is a starting point for thousands of healthcare professionals.”

Sarah Ruane, Strategic lead – health at Sport England said:

“We know that healthcare professionals play a hugely influential role in advising their patients to get active. That’s why we are equipping them with practical information that they need to have supportive conversations through the Moving Healthcare Professional programme. These conversations are even more important if an individual feels daunted by the prospect of getting active due to a health diagnosis, injury or disability. The film released today highlights the impact we can have by overcoming these barriers through bridging the gap between the health and sport sectors.”

To coincide with the film release and in recognition of World Health Day (Sunday 7 April 2019), Activity Alliance will be hosting an hour Twitter chat between 1pm – 2pm on Friday 5 April to talk about health, inclusion and sport. Join in the conversation with @AllForActivity and hashtag #InclusiveActivity.

If you are a healthcare professional looking for more information and guidance then please visit www.activityalliance.org.uk/health or call 01509 227750.

[i] Source: NHS Digital. Health Survey for England – 2007: Healthy lifestyles: knowledge, attitudes and behaviour

[ii] Source: DWP Family Resources Survey 2015-2016

[iii] Source: Sport England, Active Lives 1 2015-16

[iv] Activity Alliance lifestyle report from September 2013