Health feature: Nicola Corrigan - Public Health England
Since the release of our film for healthcare professionals, Activity Alliance has been talking to leaders about how the health sector can support more disabled people to be active. Today, our health feature series continues with Nicola Corrigan, Public Health England Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager for Yorkshire and the Humber. She talks about how she supports regional organisations to reduce health inequalities and increase activity levels.
Tell us about Public Health England’s work and priorities across the Yorkshire and Humber region?
Public Health England (PHE) is an executive arm of the Department of Health and Social Care. We work to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, by reducing health inequalities.
We have two main priorities that I work on for Yorkshire and the Humber area. The first is reducing childhood obesity. The second is improving activity levels across the whole region. We know disabled people are twice as likely to be physically inactive as non-disabled people. We have various programmes and approaches in place that look to boost disabled people’s activity levels. These priorities align with the PHE national framework for physical activity - Everybody active, every day.
How does your role support this work?
I lead on the healthy weight and physical activity agenda across Yorkshire and Humber. I work with a mix of people from various sectors, including local authorities, Activity Alliance and Active Partnerships. I also support healthcare professionals and health organisations to understand the positive impact physical activity can have on their clients, and ultimately their local community.
A big part of my role is circulating national policies, insight and best practice at a regional level. This helps local organisations translate strategic guidance into local health programmes and initiatives. To help support this with the latest research evidence, the Yorkshire and Humber Physical Knowledge Exchange (YoHPAKE) was created. This is a partnership and membership organisation between physical activity researchers and health practitioners. The network aims to bridge the gap between research and practice in physical activity and sport.
What barriers do disabled people and people with long-term health conditions face to be active across Yorkshire and the Humber region?
Some of the barriers people face across Yorkshire and Humber are no different to the rest of the country. Additional attitudinal, economic and societal barriers continue to prevent disabled people from being active. But, we know through Activity Alliance research (Activity Trap report) that 4 in 5 disabled people want to be more active and think it is important to be active.
In October 2018, PHE published its first evidence review of physical activity among disabled adults. It highlighted that when performed at an appropriate level and intensity; physical activity should not hinder disabled people and people with long-term health conditions and will lead to health benefits. This should give confidence to healthcare professionals to support their patients to engage in physical activity.
How is PHE Yorkshire and Humber addressing these barriers in both the short and long term?
The newly published CMO guidelines provide us with a strong public message to share across the region. Tailored for disabled adults for the first time, the message is "some activity is better than none, and more is better still."
Our Healthy Weight and Physical Activity Community of Improvement encourages collaboration across the region. The group identifies public health priorities across local authorities and develops a shared work plan to deliver improvements and increase activity levels. Yorkshire and the Humber Association of Directors of Public Health own this strategic work, and is supported by Public Health England.
Longer-term, we are collaborating with health partners on their work to develop Integrated Care Systems. And how we can promote physical activity to support better health outcomes and reduce inequalities. Through promoting a parity of esteem approach - which values mental health and physical health equally - we can improve the physical health outcomes of people with mental health problems. This also helps us to understand how increasing physical activity can improve our mental health, whilst having a big impact on physical health.
What needs to change across the health sector to get more disabled people active?
A better understanding of the value of physical activity is crucial. The benefits of being active are far greater than just losing weight. Physical activity is key to lowering people’s risk of many preventable diseases, including stroke, some cancers, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
One of the things we do in Yorkshire and the Humber, as well as nationally, is the Physical Activity Clinical Champions programme. This programme delivers specific peer-to-peer training for healthcare professionals. It provides them with the knowledge and skills to incorporate physical activity into their everyday practice.
We also have to remember it’s not always about sport and putting on fitness clothes. Or doing activity in a specific place at a specific time. It’s about exercise and movement in any form. Only through more conversations and collaboration can we get more disabled people more active in our region, and nationally.
Watch our short feature film for healthcare professionals on supporting disabled people to be active below: