One of the key figures at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park has welcomed moves by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reduce health risks and build protection against coronavirus.
Former Government Minister Richard Caborn, the Project Lead for the Park, said the government’s move to prescribe wellbeing at the heart of its post Covid-19 health strategy mirrors much of the thinking behind the facilities being developed in Sheffield’s East End.
“We can substantially contribute to the country’s post-Coronavirus economic and healthcare recovery,” said Mr Caborn
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is harnessing health and wellbeing research, innovation and applied technology to drive the development of transformational economic growth and population health gains.
“Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is a living laboratory which can be used to help the country through the post pandemic crisis,” said Mr Caborn. “We are amongst the pioneers of an economic and health revolution so needed right now, translating ideas and innovation into industrialisation and commercialisation.
“We are well ahead of the game and are at the heart of Sheffield’s post pandemic road to recovery. We are already attracting national and international Governmental interest and firmly believe our model should be used to shape our post-Covid future.”
The Park is home to Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), a global centre for research and innovation in physical activity. The AWRC is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move.
Professor Robert Copeland, AWRC & National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine Director, said: “There is a key opportunity now to close the inequality gap. We do not want this to be lost in a rather individualist approach based around a narrative of encouraging ‘lifestyle change’. It’s much easier to make healthy choices when you have lots of opportunity, income and security.
“We have the opportunity to work with, and through, the local community anchor institutions in Darnall to achieve meaningful change that is based on what matters most to the community.”
The purpose-designed Centre, which opened in January, brings together expertise from researchers and innovators across multiple academic disciplines at Sheffield Hallam University. The AWRC is already working in strategic partnerships with national and international private and public sector organisations on applied technology projects.
This is a model which Sheffield City Region LEP chair James Muir believes the rest of the UK should be following: “Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park brings together a unique partnership of organisations with a vested interest in improving physical activity and wellbeing and a commitment to harnessing the power of research and innovation to deliver transformational change.
“Sheffield has the potential to become a living laboratory for understanding the healthcare implications of coronavirus – both as a model for a more integrated healthcare system but also as a research base for studying the rehabilitation needs of people recovering from Covid-19.”
Prof Copeland added: “The opportunity for transformational change has never been more apparent. We have the opportunity to remodel the way we live, work, play and provide health and care services. Sheffield has the right mix of skills, experience, innovation, leadership and vision to be a global leader in population health research. This shift towards a wellbeing centred economy is what will drive growth and improve the health and happiness of residents across our region.”
Gareth Johnstone, chair of Darnall Well Being, a Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park partner organisation, said: “We believe that a strong partnership approach, harnessing the assets in the community, can achieve sustainable systemic change.
“Collaboration across the Voluntary, Statutory, Educational, and Private sectors allows us to draw on a matrix of knowledge, skills, and experience. Addressing the root causes of health inequalities goes to the heart of Darnall Well Being’s work, and shifts the focus away from individual behaviour change.”
Mr Caborn added: “We have a strategy to move forward. We are at the heart of Sheffield’s and the UK’s post pandemic road to recovery. We believe we are ahead of the game. Our model is what the UK needs and has already attracted the interest of government.”