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Let's Make Scotland More Active: A strategy for physical activity

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Let's Make Scotland More Active: A strategy for physical activity

photo4 Strategic objectives

'Streets for people' National cycle network, Edinburgh.

82 We are asking Scottish ministers, the Scottish Executive and its agencies to take a lead in developing policies and identifying resources to support the development of four strategic objectives. We believe that these changes will help to reverse the trend towards reducing levels of activity and to achieve gradual improvements in the overall levels of physical activity across the entire population. The objectives can be supported with evidence from research.

  • Objective 1: To develop and maintain long-lasting, high-quality environments to support inactive people to become active.

83 Supporting physical activity is part of the core business of a wide range of services. These services include transport, planning, environment, community safety, leisure and recreation, education, housing, children's services and many others. Policies in these areas helps us promote physical activity. To make sure that these services do all they can, we will need leadership and support from the centre as well as creativity and flexibility at a local level.

84 We are asking Scottish ministers, the Scottish Executive and its agencies, through the proposed strategic planning framework, to take a lead in developing policies and identifying resources to make sure that environments help people be active as part of their everyday lives. A good example of this is the contribution of the Cycling and Walking Strategies of the Scottish Executive to helping make Scotland more active. This is supported with the use of ring-fenced resources (resources that can only be used for one particular purpose) in the public transport fund to support people to walk and cycle.

85 Evidence shows that informal and unsupervised activities such as walking and climbing stairs are effective ways of getting inactive people to be more active. These activities can be cheap (or free), convenient, done quickly and done throughout the day. They do not need special planning, clothing or skills.

86 However, evidence also shows that many of the barriers to promoting such active living are environmental. Communities are not always designed or managed to promote physical activity. In research people mention safety concerns, unattractive surroundings, traffic fumes and lack of paths and open spaces as barriers to living more active lives.

87 Examples of some possible activities to achieve this objective.

  • Produce policy and practice guidelines for a wide range of departments and services.

  • Develop and distribute methods of assessing the effect of environments on opportunities to be more physically active.

  • Explore how codes and standards, legislation and incentives could support this objective.

  • Objective 2: To provide accurate and evidence-based advice to staff who are involved in government policy and service delivery, and who work in the voluntary and private sectors.

88 There is potentially a very broad range of staff that could help develop physical activity in Scotland. Currently, there are limited professional development opportunities for physical activity. This is the case even among health promotion and sport and recreation staff. If the objective is to be achieved, education and training should be provided to, for example, transport planners, road engineers, health visitors and teachers as well as those responsible for directing government policy.

89 Examples of some possible activities to achieve this objective.

  • Carry out regular briefing sessions with Scottish ministers and their departments.

  • Collect, put together and distribute best-practice evidence.

  • Produce a series of handbooks and support training and education for specific professions.

  • Objective 3: To raise awareness and develop knowledge and understanding about the benefits of physical activity and provide access to information.

90 Raising knowledge and awareness among the public about the goals and the priorities is essential. Currently, only 34% of the population are aware of how much physical activity is needed for good health. Education programmes and the media can be effective in raising awareness and developing knowledge and understanding of the importance of physical activity. We recognise that this activity does not result in changes in people's behaviour without local services to back this up. We recommend that mass-media approaches are only used if they can be supported with local community-wide campaigns that tackle the need for strong social support and appropriate places in which to enjoy being active.

91 There will also be an ongoing need to campaign for political and policy support for physical activity.

92 For children and young people, it is vital that we do not miss the opportunity while they are at school to provide this health education, as well as helping them gain skills through physical education for a physically active life.

93 Examples of some possible activities to achieve this objective.

  • Develop and maintain a physical activity website, including a database of local opportunities and contacts.

  • Carry out and monitor public-relations exercises.

  • Make sure that physical activity is given equal status with other health topics such as smoking and alcohol within broader health-improvement communications.

  • Objective 4: To carry out research, monitoring and evaluation.

94 We will need ongoing commitment and resourcing for research, monitoring and evaluation to make sure that programmes are high-quality and effective.

95 Many initiatives fail to be effective because they do not have clear goals, do not collect information that provides good-quality indicators of progress, and fail to establish whether and how they achieved their outcomes. If we are to build successful and long-lasting programmes, this needs to change.

96 Examples of some possible activities to achieve this objective.

  • Draw up an overall research and evaluation plan.

  • Set up a monitoring system that covers all the agencies involved.

  • Provide monitoring and evaluation guides and templates for use locally.

  • Compare ourselves with other countries.

  • Explore research links with other agencies internationally about what works.

  • Make sure that everyone involved acts in line with existing or new recommended legislative and audit requirements.