English Football League action day aims to improve nation’s health

Author: Ingrid Torjesen

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A day of action today which sees 72 football clubs from the English Football League (EFL) putting on events to showcase their community activities, including efforts to improve the health of fans and the wider local community, has been applauded by NHS England.

Activities run by the clubs include cookery classes for bereaved men, exercise sessions for people with cancer and sport to help tackle mental ill health.

At Portsmouth FC, their Men’s Kitchen will put on a taster of a six-week home cooking course for men who have never cooked or those recently divorced or bereaved and who may be experience mental ill health or isolation.

Sheffield United will hold a walking football session as part of the ‘Fans Fighting Cancer’ project, delivered jointly with Macmillan, which it runs weekly for people affected by cancer. Physical activity helps people tackle the disease and live with it. Participants achieve what they feel they are able and walking football is a big success.

Bristol Rovers will run one of its social football groups to help people recovering from mental ill health, including depression, which it kicked off by partnering with the NHS.

EFL chief executive, Shaun Harvey said: “The EFL Day of Action brings together all 72 Clubs to highlight the special role they play in enhancing the lives of millions of people around the country. Improving people’s health is one of our main aims and we’re delighted so many players are turning up to give help and hope to the fans who have supported them.”

Social prescribing can offer alternative ways of treating people in their community, and one in five of GPs are regularly referring patients to these schemes.  Studies show 28% fewer GP consultations and 24% fewer A&E attendances where social prescribing ‘connector’ services are working well.

James Sanderson, director of personalised care for NHS England, said: “Tackling public health crises like obesity must be a team effort, so it’s encouraging to see the world of football using its influence to help improve our nation’s health.”

In December, head of NHS England Simon Stevens backed an EFL scheme that lets overweight football fans train at their club’s stadium, encouraging them to get fit and live a healthier, more active life.

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