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Archive for June, 2019

Networking and working in partnership is second nature to me; however, the Synergy Award I received in 2018 helped me realise that these things take insight, creativity, knowledge, effort and time to be successful and have an impact. It was a huge surprise and accolade to be recognised for my partnership work aimed at addressing a range of deep-seated health inequalities challenges. Like many of you I have long recognised that multi-agency relationships and inter-professional approaches are required and that increasingly we need different skills and viewpoints to address significant public health issues.

It was motivating to be noticed for my innovation and integration of public health approaches across different areas of multiple vulnerability. It was most excellent to be commended for my collaboration with the voluntary, sector where, in partnership, I have highlighted health inequalities and social issues for the most vulnerable and It is more than rewarding to be valued and recognised for my contribution in developing these trusted relationships.

The FPH Special Interest Groups have provided further impetus and demonstrate commitment to working collaboratively in a range of exciting and challenging areas impacting upon the public’s health.  The SIGs have been an important vehicle to enable me to develop further shared commitments for children and young people; housing and arts and health – particularly the use of film as a powerful and impactful medium to raise awareness and promote public health approaches.

I wish the next winner of the Synergy Award success and use the opportunity to build on what you have achieved and to continue to extend the reach and impact of the FPH in addressing public health priorities.

Written by Karen Saunders, Public Health Specialist, Public Health England (West Midlands) .

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What do you do on a Saturday morning?  Ah, Saturday morning. The weekend has just begun. 48 hours of freedom. Maybe you’re working this weekend, maybe you’ve got plans with friends, or maybe you’re tackling the chaos that is the Tupperware drawer. We might spend the first portion of the weekend with some housework, homework or, maybe if you’re a student, a hangover. However, there are roughly a quarter of a million people across the world who participate in a Saturday morning parkrun. And believe me, it feels amazing.  

What is parkrun? 

parkrun is a weekly, free timed 5km held in parks worldwide and completely led by volunteers. Simply put, you pitch up to your local park at 9.00am, and at the sound of “go!” you walk, jog or run to the finish line. Operating in 20 countries, there are over 3.5 million parkrunners who have collectively run 221 million km (a gentle jog to and from the moon 285 times). 

Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who was awarded an MBE for his positive contribution to society, set up the world’s first parkrun in London back in 2004. (You can read the story behind parkrun written by Paul himself via this link.) From there, an increasing number of people joined. parkrun’s positive impact on public health is undeniable – we all know the mental and physical benefits of exercise – and so it follows that parkrun’s mission statement is “creating a happier, healthier planet.”  

Essentially, parkrun is a dream public health campaign, but what has facilitated its growth? Why does parkrun work so well? And what can we learn from its success?  

The Three Cs 

I like to summarise the fundamental aspects of parkrun’s success in three simple words, all starting with C. And no, sadly, the first word is not ‘Cake’ (heavily associated with the post-parkrun coffee and cake situation I seem to end up in each week).  

First, consistency. Consistency is key. Consistency helps people find a routine that works for them, and when something becomes normalised within a routine, it is never nearly as arduous as first perceived. For some, the idea of waking up before 9am on a Saturday and running 5km is an unbelievable idea, ludicrous in fact; but do it one week and you’ve pushed yourself out of your comfort zone. Return the following week, and the next, and next after that, you soon find yourself enjoying the regularity. It becomes habitual. And for any social change we may want to make – changing habit is certainly a good place to start.

Consistency is also seen at an individual level as people aim to improve their times each weekHaving the times documented pushes people to try harder. It gives us something to work towards. A target to smash. A small win that just makes your day. parkrun is rewarding.

Secondly, we have community. One of the best things about parkrun is its inclusivity – regardless of your age, fitness or previous running experience, everyone is welcome to join in and become a parkrunner. With a truly welcoming atmosphere and complete absence of judgement, combined with the genuine desire to celebrate each other’s achievements, parkrun successfully creates a feeling of unity between runners. This enables people to feel positive, building confidence and encouraging them to return. Parkrun provides a sense of belonging.

Finally, collaboration. There is an idea of collective interest which runs deep within the roots of parkrun. Inclusive of both the volunteers (without whom parkrun would simply fail to exist) and the runners, everyone invests their time in making it work. parkrun defies popular theories of social change, such as top down and nudgeas it began with one initiator event which “snowballed” into something much bigger. This snowball effect would be lost without collaboration between individuals with a collective interest to improve our society. parkrun encourages people to work together.

Generating positive social change is a process, not a project. It can start with one idea that becomes habit. One idea that helps to grow, develop and empower people. One idea that acts as a catalyst for people working together. As the saying goes, ‘a journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step.’ While the effects of this saying may be lost from slight overuse (and the fact that it is completely cliché), its words stand nothing less than true. When looking at public health initiatives, we must try to think almost in reverse – what can we do to make this change normal and routine for people? How can we engage groups and build that sense of teamwork? What will allow this initiative to erupt and become the social change which we so wish to see? 

Written by Steph Pitt, a final year student at the University of Bath studying for a BSc Honours degree in Natural Science with a year in Industry.

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