An ambitious set of programmes, encouraging people to be more active, have been designed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to improve health and life expectancy.
Sport England’s latest Active Lives survey reveals West Midlanders participate in activity less than people from any other part of the country and those living in the Black Country are the least active within the region.
Topping the table for the West Midlands is Warwick, where 71% of the population are described as active, taking part in at least 150 minutes of activity a week, but in Sandwell only 51% are active.
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Birmingham performs better with 58% active, slightly ahead of Coventry with 57% and Solihull has an active population of 61%, showing the disparity between disadvantaged and more affluent areas.
But under the West Midlands on the Move Strategic Framework, a variety of programmes are now being delivered, with more due to be launched in the near future, to tackle inactivity.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA, said: “Improving the wellbeing of our population by encouraging people to be more active in everyday life is a key priority for us.
“We are hard at work with Sport England and other partners to target the inequalities that exist which are barriers to physical activity and participation.
“Through our wellbeing board, we have designed a number of programmes to generate improvements, along with our active travel and cycling and walking plans.”
Programmes supported by the WMCA include Goodgym, through which people are encouraged to run to locations for community work, including befriending the elderly living in isolation. Goodgyms in Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull have attracted 450 volunteers since the first was rolled out in January 2017, completing more than 2,000 community deeds, with a fourth being launched in Warwick and Leamington Spa this week.
Since May, more than 30 organisations have signed up to Include Me, a pioneering pledge to deliver more inclusive physical activity and sport by listening to and understanding the needs of disabled people.
The WMCA has also made a successful bid for £150,000 from Sport England for the Black Country Place Fund to target root causes of inactivity in that part of the region.
Sean Russell, WMCA Implementation Director Mental Health, Wellbeing and Radical, said: “Other projects are being developed in Sandwell, Walsall and Coventry to look at how we work with the community to change spaces to get people better connected and active.
“We are also planning a regional healthy weight strategy through which we will be asking residents what barriers they experience to healthy eating and active living, so that we can act as a conduit to their removal.
“We are on a journey and, with our partners like the Black Country Consortium, are determined to make a real difference.”
Other WMCA-led programmes, with partners, are due to come on stream by the new year include Swift Public Transport designed to remove barriers to disabled people using buses and trains to access active places, such as sports centres, and Physical Activity 5000, which aims to improve inclusivity and mental health literacy in the sport and physical activity sector.