England hero Healey hails Be Active impact

By on 07/03/2011 in News

Former England and British Lions rugby star Austin Healey believes Birmingham's pioneering Be Active scheme could save the NHS billions in years to come.

Healey, who also starred in hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing, has been a supporter of the award-winning public health initiative since it was launched in 2009.

Backed by the NHS and Birmingham City Council, Be active offers all Birmingham residents* free swimming, group exercise classes and gym sessions.

And, as a £2.5 million funding package enabling the scheme to continue was announced, Healey urged other cities to follow Birmingham's lead.

He said: “I've been a supporter of the scheme from day one and given a bit more time it could be seen to be a model that the rest of the country follows.

“If you invest up front in people's health and wellbeing, you will see long term benefits and they won't just be financial, they will also be cultural. People will live a better life, they will be healthier and that can't really be quantified purely in terms of money.”

Over 300,000 people are now registered for the scheme, meaning one in three people across Birmingham enjoy free use of their council-run leisure facilities, attending gyms, swimming pools, walking groups, and fitness classes and reaping the health and wellbeing benefits it brings.

Be active has not only received national and international acclaim for its innovative and successful approach, it has most importantly delivered a scheme which has enormous benefits to residents in communities across the city.

Healey continued: “This is the biggest scheme I've seen, and I've looked around the country, that invests up front with the knowledge that in a generation's time we will see real benefits.

“If you stop 40, 50, 100, 200 or even 1,000 people, and that's a minute percentage of the 300,000-plus participants, from developing diabetes, heart disease or any other obesity related illnesses, you are going to be saving the NHS billions in years to come.

“To my knowledge, this is one of the first joint ventures between a city council and the PCTs, so you really have to credit the people from Birmingham City Council and the PCTs for going out there on a limb and making Birmingham a pioneer for a programme like this. This could really change the face of public health.”


Notes to editors

Be active is sponsored by the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts – Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust, NHS South Birmingham and NHS Birmingham East and North. It also supports the national 'Change 4 Life' programme.

The Be active scheme is part funded by Be Birmingham's Working Neighbourhoods fund and aims to get people to change their lifestyle, whilst improving their health.

* Be active is a free scheme available to all Birmingham residents who pay their council tax to Birmingham City Council. Be active participants can take part in free swimming, exercise classes or the gym at any Council-run leisure centre during off-peak hours, which may vary according to each centre. Please contact your local leisure centre for more information.

Be active aims:

  • Increase the number of people who regularly take part in active recreation and sport – Move from 17% to 20% of the adult population (an additional 23,000 people) being active at least three times a week
  • Improve the mental and physical health of those who take part in physical activity;
  • Promote healthy eating and enable more people to maintain a normal body weight;
  • Reduce early death and disability from chronic diseases by promoting physical activity and improving cardiovascular fitness among those who experience the most inequality in health;
  • Provide opportunities for employment, volunteering and youth inclusion;
  • Demonstrate effective partnership working to achieve better outcomes.

Be active achievements:

  • Over 300,000 people now on the scheme i.e. 1 in 3 Birmingham residents
  • Attendance at gym, fitness classes and swimming is up by 10% on the last year
  • Hardest to reach groups participating in large numbers including Bangladeshi and Pakistani women.
  • Lifestyle advice now being offered in leisure centres
  • A range of classes and additional activities now on offer to suit local needs
  • 38 FTE posts now created through its lifetime, primarily within leisure
  • 22 new full time leisure posts created from the increased demand
  • Over £500,000 of gym refurbishments including the city's first women's only gym


  • LGC Health & Wellbeing award 2009
  • AHC Social marketing award 2009
  • AHC overall award for best social  marketing 2009
  • Guardian health inequalities award 2009
  • Guardian overall winner award 2009
  • Health Service Journal Best Social Marketing award 2009
  • Health Service Journal secretary of state award for excellence in healthcare management 2009
  • LGC reputation award; social  marketing 2010
  • World Leisure Innovation Award
  • Equal split between men / women
  • Average of 1,200 new sign ups per week
  • When asked what the biggest barrier to exercise was, 40% of respondents said cost

Video case study: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1of_cg5AH7I&feature=player_embedded#at=104

Roselyn Mighty from Nechells weighed 22 stone when she signed up to the Be active scheme. She said ; “I was very heavy, very lazy. Didn't do much at home except eat, drink, sleep and watch TV. That's all I did. Joining the scheme has made me healthier. I've lost quite a bit of weight and I'm happier within myself. I lost over eight stone and that's thanks to being on the Be active scheme.”

For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

Tags: , , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

There is 1 Brilliant Comment

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. rachel says:

    It’s wonderful that Birmingham City council is to continue with the ‘be active’ scheme but what a shame that the free sessions are now only to be between tha hours of 1pm-5pm-when there are no exercise classes and only the gym available (cocksmoor woods leisure centre) and when most mom’s are collecting the their children from school!!