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TALKBACK katie barnes • assistant editor • health club management
everyone’s talking about . . .
gathering evidence
Is the health and fitness industry doing enough to prove that its programmes and
initiatives are meeting objectives, and that they’re worth investing in? We ask our panel...
e have it pretty good can hardly expect to secure continued exercised increased from 11 to 14 per
at the moment. The funding from the government. cent, while those who reported doing
Olympics aren’t far Next year we face a general election 30 minutes of exercise per session
away, the government and a possible change in government. fell from 64 to 57 per cent. Due to
has included fi tness in a national health While the Conservatives say they will the recession, they conclude, people
initiative for the fi rst time – namely back health interventions that include are working harder and are more
Change4Life – and is also providing fi tness (see HCM Oct 09, p28), will they stressed, so are eating less healthily
funding for fi tness programmes. What’s still do so in the face of tough budgeting and compromising on working out.
more, the general public is increasingly choices if we can’t prove results? So how are health club
aware of the importance of exercise. Recent research by IpsosMORI programmes faring, and can we
But can we prove how much of for PruHealth’s bi-annual Vitality prove they’re value for money? Are
a difference exercise and fi tness Index throws more doubt on to the operators ensuring data is monitored
programmes can make – and, if so, are situation. The researchers found that professionally? Is there anything we’re
we doing enough to ensure those in nearly two million more people are doing wrong? Would we benefi t from a
power are aware of these outcomes? leading unhealthy lives compared to central database of results from across
Without evidence to prove the impact six months previously: the number of the nation to clearly show that we
of fi tness programmes, after all, we people who reported that they never deliver results? We ask the experts.
georgina jupp carol weir
managing director • ck academy programme director • sheffield – let’s change for life, nhs sheffield
ollecting data and evidencing the
impact of exercise has not been “T
he responsibility for ensuring the
correct data is gathered starts
an industry strong point. If we are to with the body commissioning the service
grow, this has to be a priority. or intervention, not necessarily a health
However, I’m not convinced that club. There should be clear guidelines on
those requesting data/commissioning what to measure and expectations.
programmes fully understand what PCTs want more than just attendance
outcomes to expect and when. figures. Previously we’ve asked for
Timescales for clinical biomarkers all demographic data – especially participant
vary and, if you state that exercise will have a significant effect in gender, ethnicity and postcodes – so we can correlate this with
too short a time, the programme will be deemed unsuccessful. areas of deprivation. There’s also a need for details about height,
We’re having some of our interventions evaluated weight, waist circumference and BMI at baseline compared to the
independently as they must stand up to rigorous scrutiny to end of the programme. Follow-up data isn’t always gathered but
receive funding. We’ve spent three years gathering evidence to this is important too. How many people maintain fitness or weight
support our lifestyle modification programme 1 Great Life, for after a programme, and for how long? We also value qualitative
example, and estimate health savings of £230 a year per patient. data; you can’t always capture things in a tick-box. Looking at self-
Overall it’s encouraging to see the number of evidence- esteem or lifestyle changes after a programme is a big plus.
based initiatives increasing and, with developments like the BHF My experience with the fitness industry – DC Leisure
Exercise Referral Toolkit (which is still being designed), it will delivered a childhood obesity programme when I was at NHS
become easier to record the impact of interventions. So far our Rotherham – has been really positive. They were very pro-
industry is rising to the challenge and, if we make the most of active and flexible. The quality of fitness venues and motivated
opportunities, we’ll build a base of credible evidence to support staff are all strong selling points: I wouldn’t hesitate to team up
our role in improving the nation’s health.

with the fitness industry again.

24 Read Health Club Management online november/december 2009 © cybertrek 2009
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