Written by Annie Holden, Strategic Health Relationship Manager, Active Oxfordshire
Live Longer Better: A Community of Practice and Learning for Active Partnerships
It just makes sense…..
If you have been working in the physical activity and health world for as long as I have, you might share my immediate scepticism (with an associated eyebrow raise) when words used such as ‘radical paradigm shift’, ‘cultural revolution’, ‘re-wiring’ are used to declare what’s needed for fundamentally changing the system to be inclusive of physical activity, across health and social care. However, having worked with Sir Muir Gray over the last six months I am fully convinced that those ‘words’ which have now become actions, will achieve a change in the system and already describe an active cultural revolution which is expanding exponentially.
Sir Muir not only believes in the power of physical activity but expertly and eloquently can translatethe extensive scientific evidence base into clear, pragmatic advice and guidance, which just makes sense! He is also a regular contributor into the national press and of course lead and co-author on many scientific papers and editorials of scientific journals, including the BMJ and the Lancet (to name but only a few). He just makes sense!
Fortunately for us, Muir lives in Oxfordshire and we began working with him over a year ago now, when he featured in our local ‘fighting inactivity’ short film. Through continued working with him, Muir quickly recognised that Active Partnerships are uniquely placed to address a key issue collaboratively and proactively, which we are all very familiar with. The over 80s population will double within ten years, with the majority of those aged over 65 likely to experience poor health for more than half of their remaining years. The impact of COVID-19 is exacerbating these issues and makes this an urgent and vitally important problem, particularly as home confinement for some is causing significant increases in disability, frailty and dependence. Whilst the roll-out of the vaccinations give us all hope and are tremendously important, this will not resolve depression, anxiety and deconditioning. As we know, physical activity is an important factor in staying healthy – both physically and mentally, and can play a key role in Covid-19 resilience and therefore reduce the already excessive demand on health and social care. We know that the imperative is to act now, to enable transformational change for our ageing population.
Throughout COVID-19, we (Active Partnerships) have demonstrated our adaptability, agility and resilience to respond to our local communities’ urgent needs, particularly those most vulnerable. As strategic organisations, we recognise activity levels are affected by a complex system of influences and no single organisation or programme can create sustainable change at scale. With an in-depth understanding of our local communities and our cross sector partnerships, Muir recognised that we are well placed to lead this transformational change for older people through the power of physical activity.
Back in September 2020, Muir encouraged us to galvanise a community of practice and learning amongst Active Partnerships, to see who was interested in joining this ‘collaborative movement’. Our Chief Exec Paul Brivio, together with Adrian Ledbury from the National Team convened a meeting and invited all interested Active Partnerships to attend. Muir explained that to address the problem, this requires a radical paradigm shift, creating a cultural revolution, moving away from the assumption that people will inevitably need more ‘care’ the longer they live, to a culture in which people are expected to regain and improve physical and cognitive ability lost through inactivity and isolation.
By November, 17 Active Partnerships (APs) formed the ‘Live Longer Better Community of Practice and Learning’. We were about to embark on a movement that would address system design, enable network development and create the cultural revolution that is captured in the visual below: ‘Live Longer Better’:
We realised, that by working with Muir and his Optimal Ageing Associates, our ability to implement this change will be achieved in a more time efficient manner and with significantly greater impact. Sir Muir’s reputation, contacts and network in the health sector and his links to academia are key. Sir Muir acts as a spokesperson and medical expert with decades of experience and learning in how best to address population health challenges and the systems in place to support this objective. Live Longer Better will act as an exemplar of how a collaborative, systems change approach is more effective than short term, output-focused project delivery.
What have we done so far?
- Provided 5 weekly workshops, held very Wednesday from 10.00 - 12.00 for the AP community of practice, with on average, 22 attending each week. The workshops consist of Muir’s Optimal Ageing Live Longer Better professional development learning programmes, leadership development and exchange of resources, sharing good practice and case studies.
- Muir has had 1 to 1 sessions with each of the Active Partnerships, plus attends their local strategic meetings to act as a key enabler and influencer.
- Each AP member has access to Muir’s online learning resources and a bespoke website (developed by ‘Learning with Experts’), supporting the professional development programme, designed to contribute to a change in culture.
- A first meeting with key National organisations was held in December, supported by the AP National team; its aim is to be pro-active to enable cross transference of information from local Active Partnerships with this National Advisory Network (inwards and outwards). Individual meetings with National organisations continue, to scope future working and determine tangible benefits.
- Our first National Event was held on 21st January with some excellent presenters, including of course, Sir Muir Gray. With only 1 weeks’ notice of the event, 218 attended, with great representation across sectors.
Thank you so much for such an informative and useful webinar and many thanks to the fantastic speakers for presenting their inspirational projects and activities to us”. Sadia
“Brilliant session, best one I've been to for a long time!! Totally inspired!!” Deborah
The cultural revolution is fully charged and underway – but a way to go yet. Weekly workshops continue, with 2 further national events to be held. We are also considering what the future looks like for LLB beyond this initial phase 1, to end of March, particularly how to galvanise other local partners into the LLB movement, and importantly how to resource the on-going initiative and management of it. By the very nature of the task in hand, the LLB movement has to have longevity and sustainability.
Sir Muir Gray – what an inspiration! Viva la revolution….
Fellow revolutionaries, feel free to contact me with your views and / or take a look at our website for more information Annie