Places for People Leisure is a social enterprise that runs more than 100 leisure centres nationwide on behalf of local authorities. It is one of the biggest organisations of its kind in the UK and offers affordable activities to help members of local communities enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Places for People Leisure wanted to develop a nationally agreed system for the quality assurance of exercise in managing age and obesity related chronic disease.
The company felt that they were not able to do this alone, as they had limited internal experience in researching long term behaviour change in this area.
Working with two academics from Kingston University's School of Rehabilitation, the KTP used their knowledge on the implementation of brief interventions and the monitoring and evaluating of chronic disease to enhance and develop the operational capability of Swim4HealthTM - Places for People Leisure's tailored swimming and aquatic exercise programme.
A Kingston graduate was recruited to manage the project and to provide an evidence base for delivering Swim4HealthTM. The original rationale was to create a route to fitness and wellbeing through an aquatic pathway for patients coming in from GP referrals.
As all Places for People Leisure pools were installed with SWIMTAG, a wristband used for measurement of swimming, the company used this technology to monitor progress and to help motivate individuals, including via online support.
The partnership was instrumental in enabling Places for People Leisure to align further with the public health landscape as they were the first leisure provider in the UK to take part in the scheme.
The company were able to enhance and refocus the position of Swim4HealthTM within the business. With the new evidence base for the programme, they are able to use it as an effective way to decrease the number of physically inactive individuals within their local contracts, increase swimming memberships, and also support wider Sport England "Towards an Active Nation" strategy outcomes, such as increasing time spent swimming.
The KTP helped Places for People Leisure to access 'hard to reach' sedentary individuals via allied health professionals, and not just GPs, to reduce local and national health equalities and ultimately to reduce costs for the NHS. The most notable new health relationships developed were with dieticians.
"The KTP was a valuable experience because it enabled us to look at our business through a very different lens. Our partner in the University was impartial and had no internal commercial agenda like we have as a company, so in that way the University was able to be a source of objective expertise - highlighting areas we would not have thought about ourselves. All parties contributed to this. It's the partnership that is the key - not the individual". Susan Rossetto, Group Health and Wellbeing Manager, Place for People Leisure