William Eichler 26 August 2020

Cycling and walking ‘on prescription’ in the West Midlands

Healthcare professionals are piloting a scheme in the West Midlands which will ‘prescribe’ outdoor activities for some people with poor mental health and other conditions.

The Active Black Country project will run in Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton and is part of West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) campaign to encourage the region’s residents to walk and cycle more following the pandemic.

Described as ‘social prescribing’, a group of patients in each of the four regions will be signposted to activities such as walking and cycling to help ease loneliness, isolation, mental health conditions and complex social needs that affect their wellbeing.

‘Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, more people have taken to cycling and walking, which is of course brilliant news,’ commented Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands.

Mr Street continued: ‘Not only does active travel improve people’s health and help the NHS, but it is also critical in tackling air pollution as part of the fight against climate change. I am therefore delighted that Active Black Country are launching this pilot for healthcare professionals to start prescribing cycling and walking.’

A four-week pilot has already started in Dudley and Sandwell and will be replicated in Wolverhampton and Walsall during August and September.

Active Black Country and social prescribing experts will be supporting health care professionals at four primary care networks, Dudley & Netherton, Citrus (Sandwell), Walsall West One and Wolverhampton Total Health to roll out the pilot, which will help 40 people.

Michael Salmon, head of Insight, Health and Wellbeing for Active Black Country, said: ‘Active Black Country is working hard to ensure that all health care professionals, along with dedicated social prescribers, have the knowledge and resources required to signpost patients and clients to community solutions where appropriate. The resource that we have developed is a great way to encourage patients in primary care to access the wonderful parks and open spaces already available within their local community for the benefit of their health and wellbeing.’

This project is funded by WMCA through its Department of Transport emergency active travel fund grant award. If successful, the pilot could be rolled out to other primary care networks in the four areas.

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