Active Northumberland, supported by Northumberland Sport, has been awarded £209,000 funding by Sport England to help support local women at risk from the effects of postnatal depression to become and stay active.
The scheme aims to support women to build activity into their existing routine at times convenient to them by breaking down the barriers that prevent them from taking exercise.
Many women are unclear about the type and amount of exercise that is appropriate during and after pregnancy, or about the benefits that exercise can bring. Time, childcare and cost are the biggest barriers to participation, while family pressures mean women don’t prioritise activity for themselves.
The scheme aims to take low cost physical activity into existing settings which women already access, such as children’s centres and community venues. Individuals will be supported as a group but will be able to receive personalised help, advice and action plans tailored to their own fitness levels.
The funding is to be directed to 14 wards in the south east of the county which have been shown to have high levels of inactivity. There are over 1800 women of childbearing age (16-45) in this area who suffer from, or are at risk of postnatal depression.
Lower household incomes in these wards, place additional pressures on these women with many returning to work early for financial reasons.
The funding will also be used to train health and community professionals who work with young women, for example, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Health Visitors and Health Trainers to enable them to give out clear and consistent advice on the benefits, opportunities and levels of physical activity. This will help new mothers to make more informed and positive lifestyle choices to improve their physical and mental health.
Volunteer community champions will also be recruited to help promote physical activity within their communities and inspire and support other women to get active.
Jemma Halliday has recently been appointed as the Wellbeing Co-ordinator for Active Northumberland and will manage the project over the next three years. She said:
“I’m delighted to be part of such a great project. By working alongside other health professionals and volunteers we have the opportunity to develop our services by combining our expertise, skills and knowledge. Working together we aim to provide postnatal women with the opportunities, advice and encouragement they may need to get active and promote the many benefits that physical activity can bring, including a positive change in mental health.”
Judith Stonebridge, Public Health Consultant at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:
“We’re really excited to be working in partnership with Active Northumberland on this project which will help support new mums in south east Northumberland to be more active.
“Our staff will receive advice and training on the best ways to help support the women with whom they have contact to increase their levels of activity which we know can improve physical and mental well-being.”
The project is set to last for three years, after which it is hoped it will be self-sustaining.
Mike Diaper, Sport England Executive Director said:
“Active Northumberland has a strong track record of working with their local community and we’re very excited by how their project will make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“We know that people on a low income can face many practical and emotional challenges that make it difficult for them to be as active as they would like to be. So we’re working with community-focused organisations across the country to find ways to help people fit physical activity and sport into their lives in ways that work for them. The lessons we learn from this local project will really help to shape our work with similar groups across the country.”
Cath Homer, Northumberland County Councillor and Cabinet Member with responsibility for leisure said:
“We know regular physical activity is great for the mind and our mental health. It has been scientifically proven to improve mood, lift self-esteem and reduce stress – so it’s not surprising that studies have also found it to have a positive effect on reducing postnatal depression in new mothers.
“Active Northumberland is undertaking some really pioneering work to improve the physical and mental health and wellbeing of local residents and the introduction of this new initiative is another great example of this work”
“When putting the funding bid together we met with groups of local women. A large proportion told us they are inactive, with many becoming inactive since the birth of their child. The feedback we received is that they want to take part in activity that will fit into their existing routine – and that is exactly what we aim to support them to do through this initiative.
“ We also talked to a range of professionals who support young women within these communities including health visitors and breastfeeding coordinators. There was a strong wish amongst them to promote the benefits of physical activity, yet they felt unsure about providing the right advice.”
Active Northumberland is one of 34 projects to receive a share of more than £3.36 million in this latest round of Sport England funding specifically aimed helping people on a low income get active.
Top left: Kiera Lavery, Early Help family worker, Mark Tweedie, Chief Executive of Active Northumberland.
Front right: Northumberland County Councillor Cath Homer, cabinet member for arts, leisure, tourism and culture, Jeskia Scott and baby Estie, Jade Rose and baby Alice, Gill Dorey Early help locality manager and Jemma Halliday wellbeing co-ordinator for Active Northumberland