Aberdeen charity playing key role in community health and wellbeing

An award-winning Aberdeen charity has highlighted the vital role that leisure trusts play in helping to prevent long-term illness, reduce social isolation and significantly cut costs to local and national health care services.

Alistair Robertson, Managing Director of Sport Aberdeen, brought together North East Scotland MSP and Convener of the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Lewis Macdonald and sector-wide partners, to raise awareness of the significant role leisure trusts play in the co-design, provision and delivery of health and wellbeing services locally and nationally.

The meeting, held in response to the Health and Sport Committees enquiry into primary health care services across Scotland, which started in April this year, is expected to publish its findings in September.

Alistair Robertson, Sport Aberdeen Managing Director and Vice Chair of Community Leisure UK, the professional association that champions the charitable leisure trust sector in the UK said:

“We are continually working alongside people in communities, with our partners in Community Planning Aberdeen including the city’s Health and Social Care Partnership, to address health inequalities in the city, engaging in innovative ways to help mitigate the effects of ill health, in turn reducing the financial burden on health care services.

“Our diverse range of services have been developed in direct response to the expressed needs of people experiencing combinations of social isolation; long term illness; declining health; injury and life-limiting conditions. Participation numbers for these targeted programmes exceeded 22,000 last year.”

The meeting clearly demonstrated the difference that Sport Aberdeen, and leisure trusts throughout Scotland, can make in terms of illness prevention and promoting healthier active lifestyles, notably in areas of deprivation where health inequalities can be clearly seen.

In the last year, Sport Aberdeen:

  • Saw 2,000,000 visits to its facilities.
  • Grew its ‘Get Active’ membership scheme to 7500 people, who benefit from access to swimming, fitness, skating, tennis, golf and a wide range of physical activity opportunities.
  • Sport Aberdeen’s Healthy and Active Communities programme with target services for older adults under its ‘Active Lifestyles’ banner delivered 107 activities each week

 across the city and in 2018/19 provided 4563 sessions with over 40,500 participations.

  • The specialist ‘Move More Aberdeen’ programme for people and their carer(s) who may be experiencing a combination of isolation; long term ill health; declining health; injury; and/or life limiting conditions, received over 700 referrals from health care professionals and recorded over 22,000 participations by local people, helping to increase their mobility through building strength and balance; improving their sense of wellbeing and reducing dependency on others.
  • Recognising the importance of good health across all ages, Sport Aberdeen’s ‘Active Schools’ partnership with sportscotland has enabled significant positive change; over the last four years participant sessions have risen by 54 per cent to over 278,000. This programme ensures children are actively engaging in sport during and after school; having fun and increasing their levels of physical activity.
  • More than 930 specialist one-to-one and group sessions were delivered last year, benefitting children and young people with complex additional support needs through the ‘Looked After Children’ project and outdoor education service.

The second phase of the inquiry is now underway, and the Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee has issued a call for views as part of an ongoing inquiry into the future design of primary care health services. This phase will specifically focus on the prescribing of sport; leisure and physical activity as part of community-based NHS primary health care and the outcome of this inquiry is highly likely impact Aberdeen City in the future.

Mr Robertson added:

“We will continue to contribute our knowledge and expertise of delivering health and wellbeing initiatives, whilst offering solutions that can prevent people from falling into health crisis in the first place and look to learn from the inquiry’s findings. As a charity we are committed to creating opportunities, inspiring people and changing lives through sport and physical activity.”