We must work together to tackle the nation’s health crisis

Manchester Sport Youth Cricket Plus Tennis (Sport England)

Last week the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health released a one-year review of their 2017 State of Child Health report. Following the review, the Alliance’s Policy Adviser Ben Jessup reflects on the importance of cross-sector working and the value that physical activity can bring to the health agenda.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has reiterated its concerns surrounding the deepening public health cuts and how these are disproportionately affecting children’s services across the country.

Public health spending is over 5% lower in 2017-18 compared to 2013-14. And in such a changing landscape, it is imperative that the sport and recreation sector and the health sector recognise the diverse range of organisations working to enhance children and young people’s physical and mental health. In doing so, both sectors will identify opportunities where cross-collaboration will have the greatest impact.

As a sector, we need to attempt to engage potential partners and seek to breakdown perceived cross-sector boundaries. Cooperating with organisations that we might not have traditionally worked with before will help to forge new relationships and gain new insight into how to make an impact on children and young people’s health.

To engage new partners, we must continue showing how sport and physical activity can contribute to this agenda by evidencing positive impact and continuing open dialogue with government and policy decision makers.

The RCPCH shared a series of recommendations to improve the long-term health of the nation in their landmark State of Child Health report in February 2017. Most notably, the RCPCH called for Government to develop a cross-departmental child health strategy – still urgently required following the limited ambition of Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action.

Though we can’t dispute the evidence of the value of being physically active to children’s health and wellbeing, sport and physical activity did not feature in the RCPCH’s 2017 report, nor this week’s one-year review.

We must recognise that this was a missed opportunity for the sector to reiterate the contributions that sport and physical activity can make to the children and young people health agenda.

Several sport and recreation organisations are working with new partners towards health outcomes, but these are few and far between and we must challenge one another to be better.

It’s something we will be challenging ourselves to do. As we continue to develop our work around public health, the Alliance will be seeking new relationships with a range of non-sport stakeholders who focus on health outcomes.

We must remember that cross-sector collaboration is key.

The sport and recreation sector can absolutely make a valuable contribution to the public health agenda, but we must recognise that we don’t hold all the answers or access to those that need it.

At its core, sport and recreation is about helping people to have fun and what better way to improve the nation’s health?

Get active. Improve your health and wellbeing. And have a great time doing it.

You can read the 2017 State of Child Health report here.

The one-year review is also available here.