Outdoor gyms in public parks can help to bring communities together while working to improve public health in the UK.
9th May 2023
The importance of the role of local government in looking after community health was recognised and bolstered more than a decade ago with the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. This returned public health teams to local authorities following a long spell during which they came under the NHS’s jurisdiction. Equally, the Act made local councils more responsible for public health matters in their own communities.
Some 13 years later, the 2022 Levelling Up White Paper again reinforced the key role of local government in taking the lead on health.
Across the UK, wide health disparities remain, both within local authorities and from one council area to another. Government figures from 2021 show that people in the most deprived areas were four times as likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease and more than twice as likely to die from cancer than those in the least deprived areas between 2017 and 2019.
The same figures state: “the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas of England has significantly widened in recent years for both sexes”.
According to the King’s Fund, people living in the most deprived areas have a life expectancy almost 10 years shorter than in the least-deprived areas. As an example, the organisation adds that life expectancy is 78 years in Manchester, 86 in Westminster. And those in the most deprived areas can expect to live 18 fewer healthy years than those in the least deprived areas.
Writing in the MJ (Municipal Journal), Jim McManus, the president of the Association of Directors of Public Health, admitted that there were no quick fixes, adding that the causes of poor health and inequalities were ‘far more complex than simply individual responsibility’.
Local government has a key role to play in influencing many of the building blocks which contribute to a healthy society, including well-paid jobs, good education, housing and green spaces.
The Health Foundation spoke to a broad range of local government bosses before identifying six vital elements of whole-council strategy for enhancing public health:
Elected council members should work across party divisions to improve health and maximise any existing momentum.
Everyone should understand their part in improving health, and that it is not just the responsibility of directors of public health, but a strategic council service which shapes strategies, provides data and intelligence and designs evaluation criteria.
Partnerships should be forged with others to enhance health. Working relationships should be established with local businesses, the voluntary and community sectors and other local partners including health organisations. An outdoor gym facility can help to facilitate this.
Diverse voices and communities should be heard and put at the heart of all efforts to enhance public health. Solutions should be co-designed to meet local people’s needs. Installing outdoor gyms in parks and public spaces means that all the community has access to this facility.
Councils should communicate with partners, including local communities, in a way that develops an understanding of the complex, systemic causes of ill health and builds support from across varied sectors to improve health.
Action should be underpinned by access to accurate, timely data and information. Councils should develop and maintain national networks and use expertise and resources from academic institutions.
At the same time, the Health Foundation stresses that action from central government is needed, alongside a whole-government approach at national level, with full collaboration across systems and organisations if the public health gap is to be closed.
Al fresco gyms offer a superb way for communities to enjoy regular exercise locally and at a time that suits them, with no gym fees or complicated membership schemes. What’s more, working out under the sky brings a host of mental health and wellbeing benefits.
We offer local authorities some great deals, including our park package, with which you can receive a piece of equipment free of charge when you buy five items for your outdoor gym. For more information, call our friendly team today on 01483 608860 or simply complete the form below and we'll be in touch.Back to all blog posts