An action research project, investigating the barriers and enablers of physical activity in Kirklees, was recently showcased at a national Sport England conference.
The project saw Huddersfield Business School and the School of Human and Health Sciences collaborate with Kirklees Council, Yorkshire Sport Foundation and Sport England to develop the We Are Undefeatable project in Kirklees.
Led by the University of Huddersfield’s Dr Nicola Stenberg and Professor Barry Percy-Smith, and funded by a national campaign launched by Sport England in 2019, the project identified opportunities to increase activity among people living with long-term health conditions.
Hira Younas, a PhD student at Huddersfield Business School, was the research assistant on the project.
Following a literature review and multiple conversations with South Asian residents of Birkby, and other local stakeholders, the research highlighted the limitations of mainstream approaches to physical activity promotion and emphasised the need for culturally sensitive and locally-based initiatives.
It is estimated that 43% of adults over 16 in England live with at least one longstanding condition, according to NHS Healthy Survey for England in 2018. The statistics show that numbers are rising, as are the numbers of people living with more than one health condition.
However, the 2019 Chief Medical Officer Guidelines for Physical Activity highlight that
being active can help to manage over 20 long-term conditions such as depression and
type 2 diabetes; it reduces the risk of developing some conditions by up to 40% and can
delay the onset of and reduce the severity of many long term health conditions.
The guidelines also suggest that doing any activity, even at a light intensity, is better than doing none at all.
Dr Stenberg said the team is extremely proud of what they have achieved on this project and applauded PhD researcher Ms Younas for her passion and determination to make progress, despite all the challenges of Covid-19. “She built the relationships with local people that underpinned everything that we did,” she said.
The project has enabled two new physical activity groups to be established within the local community, one in the mosque and the other in the library.
A Birkby Health and Wellbeing Playbook was also co-produced with residents of Birkby, which shares stories, tips, and advice about physical and mental wellbeing.
The project partners are now working with Radio Sangam and there are plans to broadcast short pieces to promote physical activity.
“We have shown that deep-rooted health inequalities require innovative solutions and a genuine commitment to understanding the experiences and perspectives of the people that live in our communities,” said Dr Stenberg.
“Our ‘action inquiry’ approach in Birkby was an experiment. We didn’t know what would happen and we certainly experienced challenges.
“With a very strong partnership, a highly skilled researcher, and a flexible funder we were able to navigate our way through the project and demonstrate that research, that is genuinely embedded in the community, can add real value to place-based action and change,” she added.
Learnings from this project are now being shared with public and third sector decision-makers within Kirklees. The project partners are confident that there is sufficient interest to build on this work in other parts of the district.
To download the Birkby Health and Wellbeing book to read the stories of local people, as well as pick up some tips and advice about physical and mental wellbeing, visit here.