Blog Post

Supporting Greater Wellbeing for All: A City Wide Approach

Guest post by Karen Creavin, Head of Wellbeing Services at Birmingham City Council

**Karen will be a key note speaker at our Building Wellbeing Together Weekend on 22nd-24th September in Stroud, UK: Find out more and book your ticket.**

By Karen Creavin: 

In Birmingham, we’ve been working on enhancing wellbeing and tackling inequalities for a many years now. Particularly over the last seven years or so, we have been looking to develop a behaviour change approach that provides a positive ‘nudge’ towards a healthy lifestyle and greater wellbeing for all.

We know that being physically active is not only good for your physical and mental health overall, but that it can prolong life and help combat a number of preventable diseases. The work of the Birmingham Wellbeing service, with an approach to wellbeing rooted in the Five Ways to Wellbeing, is continuing the tradition of tackling health inequalities by removing the barriers to physical activity for those in the most need. We don’t just provide physical activity interventions. We collaborate on initiatives that include opportunities to be physically active, while also offering opportunities to connect, give back, learn, and take notice as well. We have found that this approach helps us to reach out to new groups of people, as shown in the video below:

We always ensure that we have clearly defined priority groups in mind, and while our services are accessible for all citizens in the city, we have designed and we deliver them in a way that reaches those who need them the most (informed by Marmot’s – proportionate universalism). We identify the barriers that might stop our target communities undertaking the behaviour change we are promoting, such as:

  • Cost
  • Kit and equipment
  • Social distance (not seeing people like you deliver it or participating in it)
  • Venue
  • Geography

We try to remove or mitigate these barriers, making the required behaviour change as easy as possible for those target communities. We have a range of projects and our wellbeing work is growing by the day.

Some of our most popular projects include:

Active Parks 

Active Parks gives people a chance to be active outdoors in our parks and green spaces.  It now operates in over 50 parks across Birmingham and all activities are free to take part in. Not only can people be active on their own doorstep, they get to meet others from the local community and interact with the natural environment. The programme provides something for everyone including: Green Fit Baby, Tai Chi, Zumba, Rowing and Cycling, Walking and Jogging, Family fun sessions, Multi-sport and more.

The outdoors also offers the opportunity for non-traditional physical activities that encourage people to engage with their local green space, such as Bushcraft, Conservation, Little People in Parks and Explorers (which involves rangers linking with local early years settings to bring them into parks for various activities).

Community and voluntary sector organisations and residents' groups have been key delivery partners in this programme. In addition, involving people in their local park and community has resulted in an increase in volunteering hours and an increase in social capital.

Big Birmingham Bikes (BBB)

As part of the Birmingham Cycle Revolution, the city is aspiring that cycling becomes integral to our transport network. The aim is to deliver cycle infrastructure and enabling measures to help increase participation. The BBB programme delivered 5,000 bikes to Birmingham enabling some of the hardest to reach groups to participate in cycling as part of their everyday lives. The bikes are a mix of free loan bikes to individuals and community groups and giveaways to people who would otherwise have cost as a barrier to cycling. The scheme has:

  • Provided 3,000 free giveaway bikes in Birmingham’s areas of highest deprivation.
  • Provided 1,000 bikes for community groups and individuals to use for free, on a sessional basis.
  • Provided 1,000 long term loan bikes to individuals for them to use for a fixed period to establish a cycling habit.

BBB also developed 20 cycle centres with support from a network of leisure centres, parks, and community groups in priority areas.  In addition, it has created an adapted cycle centre at the Small Heath Wellbeing Centre, the first in Birmingham, to cater for those with special needs.

The programme also provides cycling lessons, led rides for beginners and cycling returners and cycling maintenance courses for participants.

Run Birmingham

The programme aims to create a city environment that supports people to take up running, with a focus on those most in need. The programme is comprised of a range of activities to encourage people of all abilities to take up walking and jogging, including led walks, beginners jogging groups and running groups. The programme objectives are:  

  • To inspire 5,000 inactive citizens to start running
  • To support 15,000 infrequently active citizens to become regular runners
  • To support 100,000 citizens to regularly run and form a habit for life 

There is scope in future to run a range of health walking and jogging groups, for example linking with primary care to support patients with long term conditions, post natal walking programmes and other groups.

Active Streets

Active Streets has developed out of a Play Day initiative that some residents had started in the Kings Heath area. Active Streets supports groups of residents to bring activity to people’s doorstep with road closures (via Temporary Road Closure Order and partnering with Highways), a range of sports and family fun activities on people’s doorsteps. It includes providing streets with physical activity resources to get children and families active (including archery, badminton, tennis).  

The service also support residents with a city wide insurance process that covers all road closures, something that was previously a significant cost to residents and a major barrier.

So, as you can see there is lots of wellbeing activities happening in Birmingham, and I look forward to sharing my experiences further with the Network of Wellbeing at the Building Wellbeing Together Weekend in September! 

Learn more

Thank you so much to Karen for sharing her work in this post! To find out more you can join our Building Wellbeing Together Weekend 22nd-24th September in Stroud, UK, to hear Karen speak about her work. You can also contact Karen directly via: karen.creavin@birmingham.gov.uk.

To stay updated on wellbeing news and events, please follow Network of Wellbeing via Twitter and Facebook, and sign up to our monthly newsletter too. 

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