Research reveals benefit of exercise in social care

  • Date

    Thu 9 Feb 23

A tightly cropped shot of Dr Freeman

A University report on an innovative scheme that embeds physical activity in social care shows it could have £59 of social value for every £1 invested.

The collaboration between Essex County Council, Active Essex, Sport for Confidence and Sport England showed various benefits including increased physical activity and wellbeing, and some decrease in doctors’ visits, 999 calls and hospital trips.

This reduction in service use was estimated to a cost saving of £365.23 per person, per year.

The report is available to read online.

Introduced in 2020, the Prevention and Enablement Model (PEM) is a test-and-learn project that was supported by the Active Essex Local Delivery Pilot (LDP).

Established to examine the impact of a whole system approach to adult social care and health, PEM places physical activity at its core, with an aim to measure the impact on improving the lives of people living with disabilities and/or long-term health conditions.

The PEM Evaluation Report was compiled by academics at the University of Essex and the University of Suffolk, along with State of Life.

Dr Paul Freeman, from the School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences, said: "The University of Essex is proud to have worked on this report with our key partners.

"The evaluation we have undertaken of the prevention and enablement model has provided important insight that could help improve health and activity levels in the county.

"Importantly the ways of working employed within the prevention and enablement model have great social, and potentially, economic value in a time of unprecedented fiscal uncertainty.

"We look forward to seeing the learnings and recommendations implemented and hope they contribute to making a real change in people’s lives."

Driven by a strategic partnership between Adult Social Care at Essex County Council, Active Essex, and Sport for Confidence CIC, the initiative also involved partners across adult social care, the NHS, and the third sector.

According to the Active Lives Survey, only 61% of adults in England and 59% of adults in Essex achieve the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

Certain groups may have an even higher prevalence of physical inactivity, including individuals with a disability and/or long-term health conditions.

The PEM initiative saw 1,000 participants every month take part through system-led opportunities to promote and deliver active lifestyles and connections within communities.

This included an integrated falls prevention programme, inclusive, person-centred activity sessions in leisure centres and physical activity embedded into the practice of Health and Social Care professionals.

Councillor John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, Essex County Council said: "We are delighted that the benefits of the Prevention & Enablement Model are being felt by so many people.

"As well as the health benefits this model has delivered for our residents, we cannot underestimate the social and emotional advantages that collective physical activity brings to people’s lives.

"Ultimately, healthy bodies help create healthy minds."

Speaking about the origins of the initiative, Dr William Bird, GP and Chair of Active Essex, said: "We know that physical activity plays an important role in ensuring residents feel safe, have a sense of belonging and lead healthy lives.

"PEM takes on a preventative approach centred around physical activity, to help reduce demand on the healthcare system and the challenges of social isolation.

"As a GP, supporting initiatives like this and encouraging partners and stakeholders to get on board will ensure that together we create a lasting and meaningful change to improve health through these community connections."

Further details can be found on the Sport for Confidence website.