A report on the Department of Health ‘Walking Cities’ initiative in Birmingham, Cambridge, Leeds and Bradford, Norwich and Manchester

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Abstract

Overview
This report on the five ‘Walking Cities’ was commissioned by Beelin Baxter, Senior Physical Activity Policy Officer at the Department of Health (DH). The aim was to synthesise the findings from the reports submitted to DH, highlight innovative practice and to enable learning for the future.

This report was written by Sarah Hanson, Research Associate and Professor Andy Jones, both from the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia.

Executive summary and recommendations
The Department of Health funded five ‘Walking Cities’ in 2013 – 2015 to develop walking initiatives. There was great variety in the projects and evidence of much activity. The aim was also to target the particularly inactive and those who were less well socially situated. Whilst there are useful transferable lessons to be learned from this project, the poor reporting did not allow the assessment of how well aims were achieved. Where baseline measurements were recorded it appeared that participants were already physically active.
Where interventions were particularly successful, they built on ‘grass-roots’ community assets already in existence which took them to the heart of a community. The use of community based assets was particularly important in accessing those who are harder to reach and hence the learnings from this programme support assessing and utilising the assets in a community. There were attempts to work with health professionals with direct referrals into the walking interventions. This met with very limited success and continues to represent a major missed opportunity in reaching those who are the most inactive and in poorest health.
Due to the poor project reporting the mandated and full use of the Standard Evaluation Framework for Physical Activity is recommended for the future. There was limited outcomes reporting and this limited our evaluation of how successful the programme was at increasing physical activity.
We would make the following two recommendations. Firstly, that the Standard Evaluation Framework for Physical Activity is mandated for future work and that practitioners are trained in how to use it. Secondly, we would recommend that we need to understand the missed opportunity of direct referrals from health professionals; why this is the case and why health professionals do not refer to walking interventions, such as group walks.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of East Anglia
Commissioning bodyDepartment of Health
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2016

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