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Tanni Grey-Thompson: Time for PHE to prioritise physical activity

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Tanni Grey-Thompson has called on Public Health England (PHE) to bring added substance to its exercise initiatives by making physical activity one of its main priorities for the upcoming year.

Speaking at a PHE-organised conference this week to review the one-year progress of its Everybody Active, Every Day framework, the ukactive chair said more must be done to overcome the inactivity epidemic.

The recent Generation Inactive report from ukactive showed that only half of seven-year-olds are meeting recommended physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day. Separate research has shown that youth activity levels are continuing to decline.

There was widespread dismay in the health and fitness sector when PHE failed to list tackling physical inactivity as one of its seven top priorities last year. Grey-Thompson said this cannot be repeated if the government health body is to ‘walk the walk’ on its commitment to promoting activity.

“The letter setting out Public Health England's remit for the year, sent by the minister for Public Health, is yet to include physical activity as a standalone issue. This has to change next year,” said Grey-Thompson.

“Despite the resources set out for Public Health England to deliver Everybody Active, Every Day, the very real threat of cuts to national and local services remains unless we re-iterate the value of this work at every opportunity.”

Last year’s PHE remit listed tackling obesity as its number one priority, with promoting physical activity categorised as one of the methods to achieve this. However, physical activity sector leaders have frequently expressed their frustration at the tendency of government and public health figures to conflate obesity and physical inactivity, believing they should be treated as separate public health concerns. They cite evidence such as a recent University of Cambridge report that found physical inactivity is killing twice as many Europeans as obesity.

Asked by Health Club Management for a response to Grey-Thompson's challenge, Dr Justin Varney, national lead for adult health and wellbeing at PHE said: “Promoting physical activity is a common thread through much of our work. Being physically active has a wide range of positive benefits at every stage of life and our approach reflects this, as we work together with a breadth of stakeholders to get everybody active every day.”

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Tanni Grey-Thompson has called on Public Health England (PHE) to bring added substance to its exercise initiatives by making physical activity one of its main priorities for the upcoming year.
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