The Department for Transport has announced that walking and cycling are to be offered on prescription in a nationwide trial. ‘Social prescriptions’ will be offered by GPs as part of a new trial to improve mental and physical health. Evidence of success will include fewer GP appointments and reduced reliance on medication, both of which will ease the burden on the NHS. This initiative aligns not just with a wider ‘social prescribing’ approach by the NHS but also with the view that a serious, collective approach to physical health and wellbeing – led by and including an active, interventionist role for government – is required if we are going to prevent a public health disaster in the decades to come.
Funding for the initiative will support pilot projects in 11 local authority areas and will include adult cycle training, free bike loans and walking groups. Other schemes include all-ability cycling taster days where people who may not have cycled before can try to in a friendly environment, or walking and cycling mental health groups where people can connect with their communities as they get active.
This initiative is a welcome example of joined-up thinking across government. It is led by the Department for Transport but its press release talks of “a whole systems approach to health improvement and tackling health disparities”. Chris Boardman, the former elite cyclist who has now been appointed commissioner for the government’s new cycling and walking body, Active Travel England, has said:
As a nation we need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips. Active Travel England’s mission is to ensure millions of people nationwide can do just that – so it’s easier to leave the car at home and to enjoy the benefits that come with it. Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings. This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.Chris Boardman, Active Travel England
We have previously highlighted the practice of social prescribing as showing the value and importance of community. The NHS describes social prescribing as a key component of universal personalised care, the central concept underpinning its current Long Term Plan. The National Academy for Social Prescribing is a UK organisation dedicated to using the power of community to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level.
We work to create partnerships, across the arts, health, sports, leisure, and the natural environment, alongside other aspects of our lives, to promote health and wellbeing at a national and local level. We will champion social prescribing and the work of local communities in connecting people for wellbeing.from the website of the National Academy for Social Prescribing
Life-Based Learning is focused on reimagining education for children and young people. We need to be thinking and planning long-term – starting with the education we are offering our children. Physical activity and wellbeing. Mental health. Cognitive health. Community cohesion. The environment and sustainability. All of these are important priorities for the coming years and decades. They are central to LBL, an approach to education and development for children and young people in which the life challenges that we face – now and in the future – become the focus of a fully rounded, life-based approach to learning.
Image at the head of this article by Sylwia Aptacy from Pixabay.