Category: Improving Lifestyles & Health

Services and initiatives that improve economic and physical wellbeing.

Healthy Futures Practice Navigator at work

What’s the future for Healthy Futures?

Unfortunately, we’ve had to stop taking referrals to our social prescribing service Healthy Futures again, leaving dozens of vulnerable people in Birmingham without support. Right now, we simply don’t have the money to continue.

Back in February, we announced that we would be continuing to fund the service using our own savings. At the time, we knew there was a risk we wouldn’t secure external funding before the allocated reserves ran out. Now, sadly, that risk has become a reality. We’ve had to stop taking referrals and our Wellbeing Navigators have spent the last two months winding down people’s support.

How Healthy Futures works

Margaret, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator
Margaret, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator

We have two Healthy Futures outreach workers, or Wellbeing Navigators: Ralph and Margaret, who work with people who’ve been referred by their GP. We work in partnership with SDSMyHealthcare, a consortium of GPs in Birmingham, and receive referrals from them and other organisations in the area.

Ralph, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator
Ralph, Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigator

Put bluntly, Healthy Futures clients are usually “frequent flyers” at their GP surgery — but it’s not medical help they need, it’s social.

When someone is referred into the service, Ralph or Margaret will go out to visit them and find out what they need.

Issues they support people with include housing (many are in hostels or temporary accommodation), financial hardship (many are entitled to benefits but are not receiving them, or have difficulty managing them), alcohol or substance misuse, and ongoing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Some just need a bit of direction to help them start forming their own friendships and networks. The support given is practical, emotional and, importantly, builds people’s independence.

Here are some examples of the feedback we’ve had from Healthy Futures clients in just the last six weeks.

Judith* is in her 50s and unemployed:

I feel more positive and less confused about my benefits now, thanks for calling them today for me, and helping to sort it and update things with them. I feel like I have my mojo back. I think walking more is helping me too, and your support.

James* is in his 40s and has seen a few support workers over the years. He said to Ralph:

I have had a few issues and problems with support workers in the past, even still these days, but not with you. You don’t judge me, you listen to me, and I know how much you really want to help me. I can see that you really care.

Laura* is a mum in her 30s. She works full time but she and her child have been living in temporary accommodation:

I will look forward to my appointment with [the outreach worker] at Anawim [women’s centre], thanks so much for referring me to her, and telling me more about the support they provide. I am sure they will be of great help to me, like you. I am feeling upbeat.

Cath* is in her 50s and currently unable to work due to her depression:

Thanks so much, I really do feel the need to move on in my life now to look at volunteering and work, either temporary or otherwise. It’s thanks to you I feel like that. You have been so patient and supportive.

We know there is huge demand for the service; since February we have a steady stream of referrals from GPs.

And we know that the service works: an official study carried out in 2017 found that Healthy Futures is a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spend with their GP (when a social intervention is more appropriate), and significantly increases people’s self-reliance and self-care.

But, despite searching and applying for funding from many sources, we haven’t yet been able to secure any external funding and, unfortunately, we just can’t continue under our own steam.

A country in crisis?

Over the last year we’ve applied for many bids and tenders, and there are more in the pipeline, but haven’t won any funding for Healthy Futures so far. Occasionally we have been pipped to the post by larger organisations or partnerships whose reputation will allow them to reach more people — dare we say, it seems that quantity is sometimes given priority over quality.

We’ve even looked at crowdfunding — asking members of the public to donate — but really, should this be necessary?

Of course we understand that not every service can be funded, but it’s clear that more and more money is being needed across the third sector. Feedback tells us that every social fund we apply for is massively oversubscribed; for example, the Challenge Fund told us they had received more than twice as many applications as they’d been expecting. Building Connections told us they had a £9m budget but if they had funded everyone who applied they would have needed a £191m budget.

It feels like the country is in crisis when it comes to social support. It’s frustrating to watch and, believe us, even more frustrating to experience.

Watch the video

Watch the video below to find out how Margaret recently helped someone who had had to move house because of ill health, but found herself socially isolated in an area she didn’t know.

*names have been changed

Employee wellbeing banner

Worried about staff productivity dipping in the winter months?

We know it can be hard to keep people motivated, especially after the Christmas break. That’s why we’ve come up with a range of tailored Workplace Wellbeing programmes that might just be able to help. Together, we’ll beat the winter blues!

Gateway Health and Wellbeing teamOur qualified, specialised Health and Wellbeing Advisers have been working with people in the community for over a decade, and now we’re sharing that experience with employers.

For years, we’ve seen how better health and wellbeing leads to better resilience and confidence, which in turn helps people at work.

Statistics show that better workplace wellbeing can reduce absence and sickness levels, reduce risk before illness occurs, and improve staff retention and motivation.

smoothie bikeWorkplaces can choose from a range of health and wellbeing checks, sessions, activities and workshops.

You might like to start off with a light-hearted Health Taster Day, offering lots of fun activities over a day for people to pop in and try (including the famous Smoothie Bike)!

Or you may have an issue in mind that you’d like to address with your workforce, and be looking for something more structured – like our Preparing to Quit Smoking course.

Give us a call today and we’ll work with you to get to know your needs, and put together the perfect programme to help your staff. All our Workplace Wellbeing sessions are designed to create healthier, happier teams.

This winter, let’s stop the productivity slump before it happens!

For more information, or to book a visit, give our Workplace Wellbeing Manager Jemma a ring on 0121 456 7820.

ashtray

Helping people to stop smoking

Almost three quarters of smokers say they would like to quit.

But it’s not easy. More than a third (39%) go on to attempt it each year but only a small proportion (about 5%) successfully stop smoking.

However, did you know that with specialist support — for example from a structured smoking cessation course — smokers are up to four times more likely to successfully quit, compared to those who try and stop without any support?

stoptober 2018That’s why we are using our extensive experience to provide tailored courses, held in the workplace, for businesses who want to help their employees to quit.

Over the last month, we’ve been helping groups of employees to prepare to give up smoking with some tailored Quit Smoking courses for Stoptober, but we’d love to extend this offer to more companies and workplaces.

Supporting your employees to stop smoking won’t just benefit their health – it will be benefit your business. According to Public Health England, people who smoke take an average of two or three days more sick leave per year. Together with lost productivity from regular cigarette breaks, employees who smoke are estimated to cost UK businesses £7.5 billion a year.

Smoking is something that Gateway’s health and wellbeing teams have been helping people with for many years (you might be interested in this blog post we published in 2013, The Smoking Challenge, about the ways in which our Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers tackled the subject with the people they worked with). So we’ve used our extensive experience to design sessions that we know will engage people, and help them to build the confidence to make important changes.

As a not-for-profit CIC, any profit we make is reinvested in the education, employment, health and wellbeing of the people we work with across the West Midlands.

What happens on a smoking cessation course?

The smoking cessation courses that Gateway runs are led by a qualified smoking cessation facilitator and take place on site, at your place of work. We can accommodate up to 15 people per session and each session (which lasts around an hour) is tailored to the people in the group.

The sessions focus on preparation: the group leaders encourage people to look ahead to a time when they no longer smoke, and then they go through all the typical worries that smokers have about giving up.

For example, a lot of people worry about putting on weight, or struggling to control their mood swings — so there are sessions on managing stress and combating food cravings.

Mental wellbeing is very important so the courses cover the “Five Ways to Wellbeing”, too. It’s all about making lifestyle changes and feeling in control.

smoothie bikeAs well as the taught elements, there are plenty of opportunities for discussion — because we know from experience that sharing experiences and worries as a group really helps people to make positive changes. Like all of our work, these courses include a lot of client-led planning and support.

We can also help people to access further healthy activities if they want to (and they often do, once they start making changes!). We can even bring some fun healthy activities into the workplace, like the Smoothie Bike.

By looking ahead and focusing on behaviour change, Gateway smoking cessation courses build resilience and make sure people who want to give up smoking are as prepared as they can be when they finally quit. Statistics show that being prepared and following “stages” not only helps people to stop but, more importantly, helps the changes to stick.

If you’d like to support your employees to stop smoking, give Jemma Abbott at Gateway a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask about smoking cessation. We look forward to helping you create a healthier workplace!

Gateway’s donations “pad out” foodbank donations campaign

We were horrified to read recent research showing that one in ten girls aged 14-21 have been unable to afford sanitary products. So when we heard about the Birmingham Live “#BrumFeeds” campaign, we knew straight away how we wanted to help.

#BrumFeeds aimed to collect 100 tonnes of food for Trussell Trust foodbanks, by holding the biggest single food donation the city has ever seen. Last Friday, people were encouraged to donate at three city centre locations for “The Big Drop”.

Caroline and Debbie donate to BrumFeeds Big DropAt Gateway, we decided that our contribution should focus on sanitary products. After all, we know that people don’t usually give as many toiletries as they do tins of beans! So office staff held a donation drive in our office, and on Friday we donated hundreds of tampons and sanitary towels to the #BrumFeeds collection point in Victoria Square. You can watch Caroline and Debbie dropping them off in the video below.

We always knew Brummies were a generous lot, but we were pleased to see how many people donated to the campaign. Birmingham Live reported that over a tonne of donations were made in just a few hours! We hope that our donation helped a little bit, and perhaps even raised people’s awareness of the problem of period poverty.

What is Period Poverty?

Put simply, period poverty is the problem of being unable to afford sanitary products.

A January 2018 report from Plan International UK says, “Period poverty has previously been seen as an external issue affecting lower income countries. However, in the context of austerity and the rise of homelessness and foodbank use, combined with a lack of supportive and accessible menstrual health management education, it is also being experienced here in the UK.”

Plan International UK’s survey on menstruation found that one in 10 (10%) of girls have been unable to afford sanitary products. It also found that:

  • One in seven girls (15%) have also struggled to afford sanitary wear.
  • One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues.
  • More than one in ten girls (12%) has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues.
  • One in five (19%) of girls have changed to a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.

In “I, Daniel Blake”, Katie is caught shoplifting sanitary products. Last year, Rightinfo.org reported that donations of sanitary products to foodbanks increased after the film’s release.
At Gateway, many of the people we work with are living with disadvantage. We know from our experiences with the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, and our current social prescribing service Healthy Futures, that women who are facing financial constraints will often go without themselves, so that their families can have food.

We fully support the efforts of charities like The Red Box Project, The Homeless Period and Bloody Good Period to try and dispel some of the myths and embarrassment surrounding periods, and to make tampons, towels and other related toiletries more accessible to everyone who needs them.

Why donate sanitary items to foodbanks?

We often refer people to Trussell Trust foodbanks, and we have our own small bank of food and toiletries for emergencies, but we know from experience that sanitary products are just not something people normally give when they donate to foodbanks.

Indeed, Trussell Trust includes sanitary products in its list of non-food donation items, saying “It’s natural that the first thing anyone thinks to donate to a foodbank is food, but toiletries and hygiene products are also extremely important. Alongside the standard food parcel, foodbanks try to provide […] essential non-food items to adults and children in crisis, helping them maintain dignity and feel human again.”

(“I, Daniel Blake” screenshot: IFC films via rightsinfo.org)

pinprick blood sugar test

Pre-Diabetes results show impressive retention rates and life-changing outcomes

Pre-diabetes course completers with their certificatesAs we finish the last few Pre-Diabetes courses we’ve been running, results are starting to come in from the most recent participants. And – as with previous course attendees – we’re really proud of their results!

Since the pilot scheme in October 2015, which led to the programme being rolled out across the country, hundreds of people across Birmingham and Solihull have completed a Gateway Pre-Diabetes course.

So how does Gateway compare with national Pre-Diabetes programme delivery?

Really well, as it turns out!

Our conversion rate – that is, the number of people referred to us who actually started a course – is 68%. That’s nearly twice as high as the national average of 37.5%*.

Why? We think more people make a start with Gateway because we work closely with GPs, so they feel able to recommend us personally. Once someone is referred, as well as getting leaflets from their GP, they’ll also get a call from us to explain exactly what the course is about, and what’s in it for them.

Retention rate is one of the main measurements of success used by the National Diabetes Prevention Programme and, when the national programme was rolled out, the expected retention rate (from registration to completion) was 20%**. Ours is 78%.

Maypole Methodist Church Group made mango and avocado salsaOf the 858 people who started, 711 (83%) attended most of the sessions, and 665 people (78%) completed the course.

Why? Again, we think this is down to the personal touch. Attendees meet in person, in small groups led by an enthusiastic tutor, and the course has many interactive elements. Like all of Gateway’s services, our Pre-Diabetes course is client-led; we give people the facts and tools they need, take the time to find out more about their personal circumstances, and support them to find an approach that will work for them in the longer term.

The course has 13 sessions, but these are spread over seven months because research shows that a long term sustained approach is more likely to achieve behaviour change.

Kings Norton Park walking group
In 2016, people in the Kings Norton groups decided they’d like to get active by going for walks together, so that’s what they did! Thanks to Friends of Kings Norton Park for the photo.

Social interaction, too, is a big part of the Gateway model. We know that when people with similar conditions get together and start talking about their experiences, they receive extra benefits that they wouldn’t get from making changes on their own. They are happier to talk about things like weight loss and physical exercise without feeling judged, and they inspire each other.

We’ve seen people who meet on the course start their own walking groups, share healthy recipes and exercise tips, and start good habits that spread throughout whole families!

Another key indicator of success for a pre-diabetes programme is weight loss, and we found that 46% of our attendees had lost weight by the end of the course, with 45% of those who lost weight losing more than 5% of their total body weight.

Finally, the most obvious measurement is the HbA1c reduction. Of the readings we’ve had back to date, 76% have shown a reduction, and 64% of those who reduced are no longer at risk of diabetes.

The Gateway Pre-Diabetes course is a great example of the Gateway service model. We focus on where the need is, and use our knowledge and networks to recruit not just the right number of people, but the people who need us. We use a data-driven approach to explore ways of delivering the service and we use outcomes based on individuals’ needs which don’t just get us the results that commissioners want, but improve satisfaction and retention rates.

Saving money for the NHS

Pre-diabetes courses are essential to save money for the NHS over the coming years by preventing what is, in fact, a really costly condition.

Annual diabetes outpatient costs, which include the cost of medications and monitoring supplies, are estimated at between £300 and £370 per patient. What’s more, the cost of prescribing medication for complications of diabetes is around three to four times the cost of prescribing diabetes medication. Annual inpatient care, to treat short and long term complications of diabetes, is estimated at between £1,800 and £2,500 per patient***.

Let’s use the example of a man who becomes diabetic at 60. In Birmingham, he is likely to live to 77, so he could have 17 diabetic years ahead of him. 17 x £300=£5,100. And that’s at a minimum – if his condition is poorly managed or he develops complications, the costs could rocket to over £20,000.

The cost of our intervention is as little as £270 per head, and that’s a one-off cost.

Sure, this social model has a slightly higher cost than one based on remote consultations, thanks to things like room hire, but we think it’s worth it, because it clearly brings better results. It also brings added value in the form of qualitative savings like the extra confidence and ability to engage in more social and physical activity.

It’s a tried and tested method, and it works.

*From https://www.england.nhs.uk/diabetes/diabetes-prevention/roll-out-of-the-programme/
**From https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/impact-assessment-ndpp.pdf [pdf]
***Source: a 2012 report from the London School of Economics, via https://www.diabetes.co.uk/cost-of-diabetes.html (Diabetes.co.uk – the global diabetes community).

Lighten Up For Life logo

Lighten Up for Summer!

Our weight management course with a difference, Lighten Up For Life, is currently recruiting for May – so if you live in Solihull, have a BMI over 30, and would like some specialist help… read on!

Like other weight management groups, Lighten Up For Life helps people to lose weight by providing a support group with information and regular weigh-ins. But there are some big differences too. For a start: it’s FREE!

preparing healthy pizza at practical session
Session 8 is a practical session – preparing healthy pizza

Unlike many other groups, Lighten Up For Life provides support from a team of professional health specialists, including qualified Health Trainers, a Dietitian and a Behaviour Change Specialist who has formal training in health psychology.

The 12 Lighten Up For Life sessions include physical activities tailored for each group, ways to manage stress, tips about cooking healthy food on a budget, and even help to get your family on board. We welcome partners and family members at the sessions, because if they understand what changes you’re making and why, you’ll be more likely to stick to new routines. (And yes, it’s free for them too!)

Although Lighten Up For Life offers brilliant peer support, and you may even make some lifelong friends, this isn’t a club you’ll be going back to again and again. So in these 12 weeks, we’ll arm you with all the information, tools and support you need to make sure you and your family can continue to live more healthily in the long term.

Successes so far

First LUFL group with their completion certificates
The first group with their completion certificates

Our first Lighten Up For Life groups started in January, and last week our very first group finished their 12 week course. Crucially, all of them say they’re confident that the changes they’ve made over the last three months are lifelong changes.

Group members have told us they feel more optimistic and more knowledgeable about leading a sustainable healthy lifestyle now, and that they’re more active than they had been before – even those who have been to other commercial weight loss groups in the past. We’re really proud of them!

Not only do they all have a greater understanding of government guidelines and how to implement them in their own lives, but they’ve got hands-on, practical knowledge too. Everyone in the group has been able to try new healthy alternatives to favourite treats, and everyone is sharing the information they have learnt with their families. Several members had brought their partners along for at least some of the sessions, and they also lost weight, which is really great to hear.

They’ve also made special mention of the social aspect of the group, so we’ve helped them to set up a WhatsApp group to continue this peer support, and we’ll be in touch in a few months’ time to see how they’re getting on.

Lighten Up For Life is a free 12 week programme, funded by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. The next groups are recruiting now and sessions will be at Bosworth Community Centre in Chelmsley Wood. If you’d like to join, call 0121 456 7820 and ask about the Lighten Up For Life 12 week course to find out if you are eligible.

Sue and Tracy

“You believed in me”: when Tracy met Sue

At Solihull Lighten Up, Gateway’s call centre staff support people who want to lose weight. As well as referrals to our own weight management course “Lighten Up For Life“, and vouchers for commercial groups Slimming World and Weight Watchers, Solihull Lighten Up offers extra telephone support – regular phonecalls to check in with people, making sure they’re happy with the help they’re getting, talking through issues, and hopefully providing a bit of extra motivation for people on their way to achieving their goals.

One thing our Solihull Lighten Up call centre team rarely do, however, is meet their clients in person.

This week, six months after first contacting Solihull Lighten Up – and now an amazing 3st 8lb lighter! – Tracy came into the Gateway office and met Lighten Up Administrator Sue for the first time. It was emotional for both of them.

Tracy’s story

“This time last year, I was unhappy with my weight. I’ve always struggled with it, on and off, but nothing has ever felt permanent.

Tracy in July 2017
Tracy in July 2017

“I’d been to Slimming World before and by the summer I was wondering about going back – even going so far as having a conversation with the consultant I’d had before – but I hadn’t quite made the decision to go. I had also picked up a leaflet for Solihull Lighten Up at my GP surgery, and thought about contacting them, but after carrying the leaflet around for a bit, I eventually threw it away!

“The turning point came when I was invited to my friend’s barbecue, on the August bank holiday weekend. I knew there would be people there I hadn’t seen for years and, to be honest, it scared me. The last time I’d seen them, I’d lost a lot of weight thanks to a meal replacement diet and at that time, they’d made comments like, ‘you’re looking much better now,’ and ‘you used to be so big!’

“But since then, I’d put a lot of it back on.

“I couldn’t face it. In the car on the way there, I had what I can only describe as a panic attack. The thought of seeing the people who’d commented before … I couldn’t go. I remember my son saying, ‘what’s the matter, mom?!’ I really panicked.

“It was a lightbulb moment for me. I’d had depression in the past and I could see that the signs were there again. That experience really shook me into action.

“I knew I wanted to join a group again, but I liked the idea of extra support, so I found the details for Solihull Lighten Up and I phoned as soon as I could.

“I spoke to Sue the day before my birthday and she was just amazing. She really listened to me and we talked about how I was feeling, which I hadn’t really expected … but Sue made it easy. I found I could be completely honest with her and I hadn’t done that before. I ended up pouring my heart out to her for what must have been 30 or 40 minutes and I felt a lot better. It had already helped.

“When Sue told me that I was eligible for support from Solihull Lighten Up, I was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest. I was certainly surprised – I’m in full time work and I had thought that only people on benefits would be eligible, but she assured me I fit all the criteria and deserved the help.

“I started at Slimming World that weekend.

Tracy in April 2018
Tracy in April 2018

“The thing is, though, it feels really different this time. I’ve done diets before, and I’ve been to Slimming World before, and I’ve had successes – I’ve lost weight. But it didn’t feel like a long-term change. I’d lose the weight, and then I would put it back on at the first sign of stress (and at the time, I did have a lot of work stress). I was always up and down.

“This time, everything feels like it’s come together a lot better. I feel even more responsible because there’s someone who believes in me, getting in touch and giving me that extra push.

“Before, I would eat the right number of ‘syns’ and lose the weight, but this time round it feels like I’m doing more than that. I’ve certainly changed the way I eat – I’m having my five a day as a matter of routine now. I’m making fresh, healthy food, and enjoying it! Slimming World is really good but with the support from Lighten Up on top, I feel like people have invested in me, which makes me feel more motivated.

“I’ve actually changed my lifestyle. It feels sustainable.”

Taking a risk to invest in people’s Healthy Futures

Recently, we have decided to take a bit of a risk and relaunch a service, despite a lack of external funding. Using our own reserves, we have relaunched Healthy Futures, a programme supporting socially isolated people. In partnership with MyHealthcare, we are now taking referrals from GPs across South Birmingham.

Why? Because we know this service is desperately needed in Birmingham… and we know it works.

We know that Healthy Futures works because we ran a pilot programme in 2016. GPs and surgeries referred people who were socially isolated – for a variety of reasons – and Gateway’s para-professional staff and volunteer befrienders supported them. It was found to be a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spent with their GP (when a social intervention was more appropriate), as well as significantly increasing people’s self-reliance and self-care.

“The care navigation service is estimated to represent a saving in this scenario of approximately £10 per hour”: read how the pilot of Healthy Futures saved time for GPs and money for the NHS, according to official reports.

Importantly, we learned a number of things from the pilot, which means we know what works and what doesn’t. This has allowed us to design and relaunch a streamlined version of the service, despite limited resources.

For example, we were surprised at the age of many of the people we worked with in the pilot – we had been expecting to see a lot of elderly people, but in fact 70% of the people we saw were under 65. As well as people who wanted support to manage long term conditions, we saw a lot of alcohol dependency, anxiety and depression, accommodation issues and financial hardship.

It meant that every person we worked with initially needed intensive support from a para-professional Practice Navigator, rather than lower-level support from a Volunteer Befriender.

So, to start with, all staff working on Healthy Futures are para-professional Wellbeing Navigators. We hope that once the programme has been running for a while – depending on future income – we can introduce volunteer befrienders again, to allow people who no longer need intensive help to continue receiving a phased-down, lower level of support.

And, of course, we are continuing to apply for funding, so we’ve designed the new Healthy Futures in a way that will allow us to build capacity quickly and efficiently once we secure outside investment. With a little help, we could be supporting hundreds of socially isolated people across a wider area in no time.

“Diane was lonely, anxious and at risk”: read how the Healthy Futures pilot programme helped Diane

Healthy Futures was designed, and is being relaunched, in partnership with MyHealthcare. To find out more, or to refer patients into the service, GPs and Practice Managers should call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Healthy Futures.

Providing insights and preventing loneliness: the Patient Health Forum

Social isolation is a big issue for people of all ages, but research shows that it’s a particular problem for those who live in cities, older people and people with a long term health condition. That’s why having more opportunities to get together with others for a cuppa and a chat is really important.

A great example of a group supporting those at risk of social isolation is the Patient Health Forum. It’s for anyone in South Birmingham who has a long term health condition, and its members include people with everything from asthma to arthritis, Alzheimers and anxiety.

Although it can be useful for people to talk about their health condition during the meetings (and, in fact, the meetings are funded by South Birmingham CCG in return for feedback about the health services they use), the biggest benefit that the Patient Health Forum brings is the opportunity to meet and talk to others.

Our first session of the year took place a couple of weeks ago in Stirchley, and 31 attendees enjoyed a buffet lunch, a talk from Wayne on the Five Ways to Wellbeing, and entertainment from a Michael Bublé tribute act. Some, like Irene, even had a sing and a dance!

Committee member Pauline Hartley said, “It matters not what health condition people have – but how they can be helped to deal with the isolation, the social problems and the access to services that will help them. Our members constantly ask if the group will stay open because it so important to them and even sometimes is the only place they go to for social interaction.”

Although the Forum had already been running for a number of years, Gateway became involved in 2014 to help facilitate the meetings. Since then, we’ve been supporting the committee with the general running and budgeting of the group, organising the venue, transport and refreshments, bringing in speakers and entertainment, and sharing our knowledge and contacts. And although funding for the group has dipped recently – meaning we’ve had to go from monthly to quarterly sessions – we’ve seen numbers continue to grow. We’re particularly pleased that older people and carers are coming along because, according to research evidence:

  • In the UK, 17% of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours less than once a week, and 11% in contact less than once a month.
  • Loneliness is common in carers, especially resident carers. Other groups at risk of loneliness include older married women, older people who live with married children, those living in sheltered housing or residential care and older people who emigrated from other countries (especially those who do not speak the language well).
  • Loneliness seems to be less prevalent in those rural areas where a sense or community still remains than it is in more densely populated urban areas.
  • Lack of money limits the opportunities for overcoming loneliness: those on lower incomes are more prone to feelings of loneliness than those who are better off.

Membership of the Patient Health Forum is open to anyone who lives in South Birmingham, or is registered with a South Birmingham GP, and lives with a long term health condition. If you’d like to get involved, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to someone about the Patient Health Forum.

New year, new service: Lighten Up For Life!

The new year will see us launching a new service for people in Solihull: the Lighten Up For Life weight management group.

Lighten Up for Life has been designed as an extension of the Solihull Lighten Up service (SLU), which we’ve been running for a while. SLU supports people in a number of ways, but a very popular option is a weight management group, so we’ve used our in-house specialists – and over a decade of experience – to design a weight management group with a difference.

The free 12 week programme is funded by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and sessions will run at two venues (to begin with) in Chelmsley Wood.

The main difference between Lighten Up For Life and other groups is that this is intended to be a distinct 12 week course, rather than a group that people will continue to go to indefinitely. That’s because we believe weight loss should be a sustained, behavioural lifestyle change. By the end of 12 weeks, we hope the people who attend Lighten Up For Life won’t only have lost weight, but will have made the changes required to keep the weight off. We don’t want the people we work with to be attending weight management groups forever – we want to give them the tools they need to make the changes themselves. For life.

Over the last ten years, Gateway has helped thousands of people to lose weight and keep it off, through services like Health Trainers. The Lighten Up For Life team includes para-professional Health Promoters who have been helping people to make sustained lifestyle changes for many years, as well as an experienced Dietitian, and a Behaviour Change Adviser who is a trainee health psychologist.

And, unlike some other weight management groups, Lighten Up For Life isn’t just about diet. The 12 sessions will include physical activities, ways to manage stress, tips about “food and mood”, and the type of social peer support that we know from experience really helps everyone in a group.

We’re really looking forward to delivering the Lighten Up For Life course and we’re delighted that so many people have already signed up for the first sessions in January. If you’d like to join them, call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Lighten Up For Life to find out if you are eligible.