Theme 10) A healthy and active city

This theme goes far beyond healthcare delivery – and it needs to. The reason being that more research is showing how seemingly avoidable problems are getting to the stage where the number of people suffering is now becoming a public policy problem.

  • Do you feel that there are too many barriers that stop us from living healthy and active lives?
  • Do you think we sometimes only tackle the symptoms rather than the causes – for example treating breathing problems with medication when the cause is damp due to poor housing & ventilation?
  • Do you think we can come up with a more ‘holistic’/comprehensive approach to helping people become more healthy and active – without resorting to ‘nanny state’ tactics?
  • Do you think there is something we can do with our housing and transport system to help ‘design in’ healthier living – such as safer cycling routes
  • Do you think we can support our community organisations and make better use of our community facilities to help people live healthier lifestyles?

Loneliness in an increasingly crowded city

Loneliness is one of them.  In 2012, the Care Services Minister was quoted by the BBC saying more needed to be done to tackle loneliness.[1] In April 2014 The Guardian hosted an online debate on how councils can deal with the problem.[2]

I’ve also written about my experiences of loneliness – particularly in a mental health context.[3]

Healthy eating, healthy living

There is information overload on what is and isn’t healthy in the media these days – often with extreme contradiction. The difference in approach I’d like to see Cambridge try out is one where we connect people and actions. This might be colleges and providers connecting classes where people learn how to make healthy meals on a budget with classes that get them active. It may also involve working with retailers to see if they can offer local discounts to people taking part in introduction classes and workshops for the first time.

Overcoming psychological barriers

Exercise does not have to mean going to the gym, regular running or team sports. Everyone has their own preferences. For some, getting them involved in nature walks, yoga or dance classes might have a greater positive impact. What I’ve found is crucial is the welcome people get. Hence why community groups that put on such events need support in this – in the same way private organisations need to acknowledge this too. Going to somewhere new can involve overcoming massive psychological barriers. How can we help those people overcome them?

Let’s talk about sex – for those that have had little sex and relationships education

This matters because over the past decade or so there has been a massive change of attitudes from institutions about what people need to know. 20 years ago, people were still being thrown out of their jobs in the military because of their sexuality. Today, we have same sex marriage on the statute books. While approaches to sex and relationship education has changed significantly for young people – and rightly so, with a big focus on informed consent and access to information, has it changed for adults? Where else can you go other than the doctors or a hospital setting – settings that might be off-putting for some people? Can we improve upon what is currently on offer? What could the delivery of sex and relationships education in the community look like? What would the setting be? What would the materials and content be? What barriers would we have to overcome? How could we persuade those reluctant but at risk to take part?

Proposals, vision, policies

Rather than come up with a series of individual policies/proposals, I’d like to see a future community action gatherings bringing together residents and professionals from across the city (and beyond) to come up with solutions. One of the common themes in this manifesto is that there is a wealth of knowledge and talent in and around Cambridge – a wealth that we’re not tapping into.

In such a community action gathering, I’d like to get groups of residents that want to live healthier and more active lives together with professionals from a range of fields including (but not limited to):

  • General practice (local doctors)
  • Community nurses
  • Mental health counsellors
  • Debt counsellors
  • Dieticians
  • Supermarket/grocery managers
  • People that run sports/community centres
  • People that run active community groups, sports teams and ‘outdoors activities’ such as ramblers to allotment societies
  • Local schools and colleges
  • Social workers
  • Local politicians

Working with the residents that want to improve their health, such gatherings could explore the problems/barriers that people feel they face in detail. Once the problems have been ‘fleshed out’, then we can start looking at how to overcome them. For example going along to your first class might be a significant barrier for some people. I remember my first dance class – it scared the living daylights out of me but I never regretted it. For others, it might be a lack of transport, unavailability of childcare or lack of affordability. In those cases, is there something about changing bus routes and times? On childcare, is there something we could do about creche facilities at certain times? On affordability, is there a way we can make concessionary passes go further/have a greater impact?

Food for thought?



[2] – summarised at



2 thoughts on “Theme 10) A healthy and active city

  1. ll keep keep this short because i can go on and on! TEACH MENTAL HEALTH IN SCHOOLS. we nees to talk about Mental Health. In an article on the Guardians website:

    “It accounts for 28% of the disease burden, but gets just 13% of the NHS budget”

    We need to educate Young people about Mental Health to a) Help increase Early Intervention, so young people can identify that they have a problem and feel OK to get help (And KNOW Where to get help) aaanndd B) To significantly decrease Stigma & Discrimination towards Mental Health.

    PLEASE SIGN my petition and get Mental Health taught in Schools.

    Thank you

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