A blog from Councillor Louise Upton, Cabinet Member for Planning and Healthier Communities:
We’ve heard a lot this year about the challenges for the NHS, the waiting lists, staff pay and morale. One of the changes we haven’t heard so much about recently, which is delivering positive results, is how councils work with the health service to prevent illness and support healthy lives.
Good health isn’t just good luck. We all know there are ways we can live a healthy lifestyle, and as the council we can help make that easier for people in Oxford.
Our green spaces are perfect places to exercise for free and are good for mental health. We have over 100 council green spaces, and allotments and community garden projects that provide access to nature, physical exercise and healthy food – a triple whammy of goodness.
We’re encouraging active travel in Oxford – more walking and cycling for short journeys, which helps build exercise into the day and reduces air pollution.
We’re working with local health services to look at locating some services in our leisure centres – for example weight clinics and smoking cessation – so it’s easier for patients to build exercise into their health management. We also work with NHS social prescribing, where your doctor can prescribe community activities to prevent problems or help recovery.
We know the cost of living affects healthy lifestyles. When you’re economising on food and heating, let alone leisure spending, healthy lifestyles can seem like a luxury.
We work with community groups to provide food larders across the city that give people affordable access to fresh fruit and veg as well packet and tinned food.
We’re improving our council housing to be better insulated and cheaper to heat, meaning less cold and damp. Our energy advice team can help home-owners with fuel-saving advice and information on grants for things like better insulation. We now licence all private rented accommodation, so we can take action on poor quality housing.
Our You Move and Move Together programmes provide older people and families with free and discounted activities to get them moving more and being more physically active. We also have free swimming for under-17s and leisure centre discounts for those on the lowest incomes, and fit trails in parks around the city with free fitness equipment.
Our Youth Ambition team provide youth clubs and holiday activities to keep young people socially connected and trying new things in a safe, supported space. This helps mental health and confidence, and can help with school attendance and achievement.
Working with the health service we’re making progress to help everyone in Oxford live healthier lives.