Category: Improving Lifestyles & Health

Services and initiatives that improve economic and physical wellbeing.

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.

Health Trainers closure: reflecting on success

Gateway’s Health Trainers service, offering one-to-one support and advice to people who want to make lifestyle changes, will be closing at the end of September.

Health Trainer Wayne pictured at our Family Health and Wellbeing Day
Last week, we looked at some of the numbers and showed how successful the service has been during almost a decade of operation. Gateway Health Trainers supported more than 18,000 people over the years, with more than 90% of people completing their support, and 84% of those achieving or part-achieving their goals.

This week, we thought we’d share some more personal stories, both from the Health Trainers themselves and the people they’ve supported.

Beckie is moving over to work for Gateway’s Pre-Diabetes team, but here she reflects on her year as a Health Trainer and tells us about one of her most memorable clients during that time.

Ralph came to the Health Trainers from the Lighten Up service. Here, he tells us what he has found most satisfying about being a Health Trainer. Sometimes, the successes aren’t as obvious as you think!

Contrary to popular belief, the Health Trainers service wasn’t just about weight loss or physical activity (although of course they helped people with that too!) Many people reported improved mental health and wellbeing, reduced their alcohol intake, or became less socially isolated thanks to their Health Trainer.

Wayne (pictured above at our Health and Wellbeing Day in July) told us how one of his clients came in for help with her weight management, but went on to make many other changes.

“Once she’d made the decision to lose some weight, it felt easier for her to make other changes in her life too,” he says. “One of those things was smoking. She knew she had wanted to stop smoking for a while – especially after one of her grandchildren made a comment about it, saying ‘nanny, you don’t smell very nice’, so the next time she came to see me, she asked about smoking cessation services and I was able to refer her straight away to a stop smoking clinic. A lot of people think it’s really difficult to stop smoking without putting on weight, but because she’d made the decision to change, and made the changes in tandem, she found it a lot easier than she thought.”

Health Trainers pictured in 2016. Margaret is on the far left.
Health Trainer Margaret (left) told us about one of her clients, who was referred for weight loss, but whose issues went a bit deeper than that. “She rarely left the house,” says Margaret, “so she wasn’t doing any physical activity at all. She also had a diagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which meant that she had a lot of discomfort around eating. She hated certain foods because of her phobia of crumbs and dirt, and didn’t eat any fruit or vegetables.

“So I supported her by taking things really steady and helping her to mentally prepare for the changes to meals. First we substituted just one item of food at a time in each meal for a piece of fruit or veg. Then we started getting her out of the house, for just two or three minutes a day. And she really worked hard. Every time I met her she was going out for longer and longer periods of time and eating more and more healthy foods.

“By the end of the support, she had already lost a stone and a half, and was walking down the road to meet me in different locations. I’m so proud of her! And it’s so rewarding for me, too. I have really loved this job.”

As you can see, the service means a lot to staff and their clients. We hope that, in a future without Health Trainers, people will continue to get the support they need.

End of an era: a celebration of the Health Trainers service

It’s a sad time for Gateway, as funding from Birmingham Public Health comes to an end for one of our longest-running services.

Gateway Health Trainers, pictured in 2011. Wayne (back row, left), Hana (front row, left) and Richard (front row, centre) are still with the service

The popular Health Trainers service, offering one-to-one support and advice to people who want to make lifestyle changes, has been decommissioned and will finish at the end of September.

All our Health Trainers are now working hard to finalise arrangements with their remaining clients and get everyone to a place where they feel they have achieved at least some of their goals.

Although it’s a sad time for us, it’s also bittersweet, as we reflect upon the Health Trainers’ many successes and achievements. So we thought this would be a good opportunity to have a look back at the service and share some of the stories and statistics with you.

The Health Trainers service was started in 2008. By the time the funding ends, we will have worked with more than 18,000 South Birmingham residents, with more than 90% completing their support.

Over the last two years, the service has changed very slightly. Rather than focusing our support in the most deprived areas of Birmingham, we now focus on people with a level of vulnerability. This can include recent offenders, people with substance misuse, people who have experienced domestic abuse, or mental ill health, and people who are in temporary accommodation. More than a third of the 2000 people we work with every year are in this group.

When a Health Trainer starts working with someone new, they help them to come up with a set of achievable goals to work towards. These often include losing weight and becoming more physically active, but they also include stopping smoking, or even becoming more confident and socially active.

Over the last decade, Gateway’s Health Trainers helped people to achieve, or part-achieve, the goals they set themselves in 84% of cases. For example:

  • Physical activity: 91% of the people we worked with needed to increase their levels of physical activity, and 85% did
  • Nutrition: Of those who were eating less than the recommended level of fruit and veg, 52% of those classed as “low” and 60% of those classed as “very low” resolved the risk
  • Alcohol: 45% of those who had a risk relating to drinking more than the recommended level of alcohol resolved that risk
  • Mental health: More than two-thirds saw an improvement in their mental wellbeing, according to WEMWBS measurements at the beginning and end of support

Dr. Asfia Aftab is a GP Partner at Vicarage Road Surgery, one of the GP surgeries that Gateway Health Trainers worked with. When told about the end of the service, she said, “I am sad to hear this news. As you know, we had a great experience with Health Trainer services for our patients in Kings Heath and say they were a very valuable part of the primary care services we provided. We had a lot of great anecdotal feedback from patients.”

As Josh explains, below, Health Trainers is a “whole person” service and one of the biggest benefits of the service has been the ability to offer people time. Time to build up a rapport, learn as much as possible about a person, and really talk things through.

Josh came to Gateway after completing a degree in Psychology; first as a volunteer, and then as a Health Trainer. He has used the skills and knowledge gained as part of his degree to back up his work with Gateway, helping people to make significant lifestyle and behavioural changes.

Grant will help over 100 people improve their wellbeing

Thanks to a Discovery Grant from the Santander Foundation, we will be able to develop and deliver a new course this year – one that will help over 100 people in Birmingham to improve their mental health.

The course is designed around the “Five Ways to Wellbeing“, an evidence-based government strategy that sets out five simple actions a person can take to improve their wellbeing. The grant will allow us not only to develop the content for a five-session course, but to trial its delivery in eight venues around the city.

Mental wellbeing is a vital part of living well. This course is one that we have wanted to pilot for a while, so we’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a grant that will help us to do this. The grant will help not only with research and development costs, but with practical costs too: things like training materials, room hire and the cost of a facilitator in each venue.

We’re already talking to a number of other local organisations about delivering the course to a range of people. As well as our community sector partners, we’re also speaking to employers because we feel this course could be really valuable in terms of encouraging healthier workforces. One place we’re looking to work is within the NHS; we think this could be a good way for the NHS to support the commitment made in its Five Year Forward View ‘to ensure the NHS as an employer sets a national example in the support it offers its own staff to stay healthy’.

The Gateway Five Ways to Wellbeing course

The course we’re developing will encourage participants to take part in activities based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Like all of Gateway’s work, the content of each session will flexible, allowing participants to lead, and identifying and building on the strengths they already have.

The “five ways” are all simple suggestions – small steps that it will be easy to take – and based around self-awareness. By becoming more mindful of your own wellbeing, you can build confidence and resilience, and so reduce health risks.

“Be active” encourages physical activity because, put simply, exercise makes you feel better! The course will allow each group to tailor this step to their own mobility and fitness levels – so it could be anything from a ten minute stretch, or a walk in the park, to a bike ride or regular swim. As on our Pre-Diabetes courses, we’ll be encouraging people to decide as a group what activities they’d like to do – then we’ll help them to do it.

“Connect” will encourage participants to engage with the people around them. We’ll be looking at relationships and how to build them, whether that’s friends, family or neighbours. Gateway’s own staff and staff at the partner organisations will be able to direct people to activities in the area where they can meet likeminded people, and we’ll also be encouraging the people in the group to connect with each other to take part in future activities, if they want to.

“Give” is another way to create connections. After all, doing something for someone else is really rewarding, and it can be something as small as a smile! We’ll be looking at the ways in which people are already giving (whether they realise it or not) and how making some time to treat yourself can make it easier to do things for others. If people want to give more back to their communities, we may be able to put people in touch with volunteering opportunities, too.

“Keep learning” is all about challenging yourself to learn something new, or reconnecting with an old hobby or interest. Whether people want to learn to cook, learn a practical skill, or take on a new responsibility at home or work, we’ll be there to support them. We’ll be encouraging people to share their own skills and experiences with the others in the group and we’ll also be looking at other local activities and groups where people can try something new.

“Take notice” is probably the most important step for the people we will be working with. Becoming more aware of the world around you, and giving yourself time to reflect, is vital to your mental wellbeing. We’ll be encouraging people to take a little more notice of the little things, and to take time out for themselves, each day. So many of us complete our daily routines without taking much notice of nature or the changing seasons, but taking some time to reflect on the smallest experiences each day can help you to appreciate what matters to you.

We’re really pleased to have been chosen to receive a Santander Foundation Discovery Grant. Even the smallest funding awards – this one is £5000 – can make a huge difference to our work. We are looking forward to delivering this pilot course to at least 100 people, and hope that it will open the doors to allow us to support many more.

Could we deliver the Five Ways To Wellbeing course at your workplace? For more information, contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820.