Is Sheffield fit for a big drive for better health?

Sheffield park runners - including Dr Ollie Hart, wearing the green top - in action.
Sheffield park runners - including Dr Ollie Hart, wearing the green top - in action.

Sheffield is promoting itself as the UK’s ‘outdoor capital’ on the back of activities such as climbing, mountain biking, cycling, walking and fell running.

And next summer’s Tour de France is seen as an opportunity to get the message across.

But, like every big city, Sheffield has a serious health problem.

People are still smoking too much, having too much sugar – and not taking enough exercise. The result is high levels of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

“More and more from a health perspective we are realising the importance of keeping fit,” said Dr Ollie Hart, a Sheffield GP, who is leading the Move More, Do Something campaign in the city.

Wednesday’s launch will involve representatives of the NHS, universities, college, the council, the Chamber of Commerce, emergency services and the community and voluntary sectors. The aim is to produce an action plan that encourages individuals and organisations to think about lifestyles and fitness.

“There are people doing things around the city, and we want to build on that enthusiasm,” said Dr Hart.

The initiative is being launched on the back of Sheffield being chosen by the Department of Health as one of three locations for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise in the wake of the London Olympics.

A £10m budget will be used to develop facilities across the city that can be used by physiotherapists, diabetes consultants, cardiac specialists and other experts to promote leisure and health.

One commitment is to a new swimming pool in the north of the city. The location has not yet been revealed.

Yet one of the biggest tasks is to make inroads into the stubborn divide that runs through Sheffield based on wealth, education, employment and health.

It is reflected, for example, in the 5k runs organised by volunteers in local parks on Saturday mornings.

Typically, there are 450 runners in Endcliffe Park, 120 in Graves, 80 to 90 in Hillsborough and 30 to 50 in Manor Park and Concord.

“Behaviour isn’t an easy thing to change,” said Dr Hart. “It’s the same in every city. How can we make it happen? Everybody needs to take some degree of responsibility. It’s a big challenge.”

But there is hope.

“There is a sense of pride in the city and an identity and we have got the beautiful natural resources – the Peak District and other green spaces. There’s the idea of the outdoor capital.”

At the end of the day, though, whether ambitions are realised, and the bar is being set high, depends on one thing.

“The people of Sheffield will decide whether they are up for it or not.”

* Next Wednesday’s meeting will be streamed live on Move More Sheffield Organisers are also be using #movemoresheff on the day to allow people to send messages and thoughts.