Coventry voluntary sector leads the way in tackling health inequalities

The Department of Health & Social Care has recently announced a new Office of Health and Equalities to combat the inequalities in health and wellbeing outcomes for people living in the most deprived areas in England. This new policy focuses on preventing health problems before they develop.

Coventry’s voluntary sector is leading the way with this approach and residents can already access support with health advice and motivational activities through the ‘Active Central’ project run by Voluntary Action Coventry. 

Active Central is for adults over 18 of all ages and physical abilities who may experience barriers to making positive health changes to their lives. They take part in a number of fun fitness activities including chair yoga, park walks, tennis, and gentle exercise as well as sharing healthy eating tips. 

Nicky Smith, Active Central Engagement Officer & Occupational Therapist says: 

“With men in the most deprived areas likely to live 10 years less (and women 7 years) than those in the least deprived and obesity rates 8% higher - the health disparity statistics are shocking.  

“We’ve been running Active Central sessions since March 2020 and since then have had a whole range of people from across the city take part both in both online and face to face group activity sessions. Our main aim is to build healthy communities and our team of dedicated volunteers and local exercise experts share their skills and training to support other members of the group. 

“We have noticed an enormous increase in commitment to exercising twice weekly when previously this was not the case, willingness to try new forms of exercise, more motivation to walk around the city, less physical inhibitions and shyness taking part in group exercise - and no fancy gym or sportswear in sight.” 

Terry, who has been a participant in Active Central since May 2021 now leads regular bingo sessions which gives her a new skill she can use to volunteer with other groups. She says: 

”Being part of Active Central has opened up so many different things. I love leading the bingo sessions and have met so many people from different walks of life. It’s given me something to look forward to every week.” 

Heather, another participant says: 

“I’ve learned a lot about foods, ways to manage my condition better, and exercises I can do to help with my mobility problems. I feel more motivated to make changes to my diet and be more active. I’m looking forward to meeting up in the park again to increase my activity and social experience. That’s really important to me because I spend a lot of time at home alone and don’t get out to meet people very often.” 

Read the Department of Health & Social Care press announcement (1st October): Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) launches today