Ukactive and the RSPH are calling for smoking cessation services to be offered in gyms and leisure centres.
They claim this would help ease the pressure on local health facilities and improve access to health improvement services.
The recommendation comes as part of a new joint report looking at ways fitness professionals can help to support the public’s health, titled Going the Distance: Exercise professionals in the wider public health workforce.
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‘In a climate of ongoing cuts to public health budgets, it has been acknowledged for some time that the public health challenges currently facing the nation are too great to be tackled by the core public health workforce alone,’ Shirley Cramer CBE, RSPH chief executive, said.
‘As such, developing, upskilling and empowering other workforces with the opportunity to improve public health has become a vital focus of RSPH’s work.
‘As this report demonstrates, exercise professionals have a great opportunity to be an active part of this wider public health workforce, and there is appetite from the public for this to happen.
‘Our recommendations set out a blueprint for making this ambition a reality, in a way that is effective and evidence-based.’
There are around 400,000 people employed in the fitness sector in Britain, representing a huge untapped resource for public health.
According to research conducted by Ukactive and the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), 54% of gym goers would be comfortable accessing smoking cessation services at the gym.
The report also recommends:
- Pilot classes aimed at improving mental wellbeing
- Establish and promote a public health information and resource hub for exercise professionals showing best-practice, evidence-based guidelines and interventions, as well as to opportunities for additional training
- Health practitioners (including GPs, AHPs and community health) to increase the use of exercise referral schemes to improve the breadth and depth of access to leisure and fitness facilities and exercise professionals.
‘This report demonstrates a clear appetite among both the public and exercise professionals in the fitness sector to play a greater role in addressing public health challenges,’ Ukactive CEO, Steven Ward, said.
‘The potential for our workforce to augment our health system with timely interventions is game-changing – it is now important we give fitness professionals the tools, knowledge and qualifications to deliver for public health.’