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Self Care Week: Fit Fans programme encourages weight loss to help tackle cardiovascular disease

Posted: 19th November 2020

For Self Care Week 2020 we’re looking at some of the innovative programmes we’re working on that are empowering people to take a more active role in managing their own health. In this article, we feature the work of our South Yorkshire & Bassetlaw ICS Innovation Hub and one of its exemplar projects, Fit Fans: an innovative wellbeing programme that aims to support the self-management of cardiovascular disease.

The SYB Innovation Hub is a partnership between South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw’s Integrated Care System and the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN that aims to identify and address un-met needs across the region. The Innovation Hub is currently running three Exemplar projects in the areas of Population Health, Urgent and Emergency Care and Workforce.

One of the main priorities of the Population Health Exemplar project is finding innovative ways to tackle cardiovascular disease and supporting the self-management of the condition. To do this, the Innovation Hub opened a competition and invited GP surgeries from across the region to propose ways to address the issue. It gave GPs the opportunity to bid for funding to support their ideas and Fit Fans was one of the ideas that was chosen.

Fit Fans is a 12-week programme that aims to encourage weight loss and improve fitness in ‘yet to reach’, inactive and overweight or obese adults in Sheffield. Originally developed by the University of Glasgow and Scottish Premier League Football Clubs, it started as a trial and proved successful in encouraging and maintaining weight loss, improving diet and mental health. Aejaz Zahid, Innovation Hub Director at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN said:

“We were looking at alternative ways to support cardiovascular disease self-management in patients that are high risk of developing serious cardiovascular conditions. Fit Fans was one of the most innovative ways of engaging with people using the power of football to encourage them to engage with their own health.’’

The programme’s aim is to help participants be more active; supporting them to lose weight through group-based exercise sessions, as well as providing advice around maintaining a healthy diet.
The first cohort of Fit Fans started in January 2020, at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. Jeff Boyd, a Fit Fans participant, said:

“The benefits of the sessions through Fit Fans was that they had access to a gym locally so we attended that as a group which was far more enjoyable, far more fun than trying to do it on your own, so you’ve got that group camaraderie and challenge amongst yourselves and it is all levels of ability [….] I’ve definitely had a change in my lifestyle to the point where the first thing I do every morning is a 30 minute exercise routine and I’ve been doing it that long now I can’t not do it.’’

Emma Reynolds, GP, said:

“In Sheffield we know that two thirds of people are overweight or obese and one third is physically inactive and the prevalence of smoking is at 17% so all of that is already a boiling pot for cardiovascular disease and we see lots of it.

Personally as a GP I’m often sat there in consultations with patients asking them ‘if you could just lose a little bit of weight, if you could stop smoking, if you could do a bit of exercise we can really improve your health outcomes’ and they’ll turn around to me and say ‘well I just don’t know how, I’m not going to a gym, I’m not going to Slimming World’. So, actually having something to offer that group of people that wouldn’t access exercise or healthy eating tips in a normal way has been really beneficial.“

Unfortunately, face-to-face delivery was interrupted following the COVID-19 lockdown in March but participants had already managed to lose weight, improve their physical activity and their diet. To maintain engagement and momentum Fit Fans was adapted to an online “Bite-sized” programme. Short videos on topics such as bone health, food labels and cholesterol were produced and shared by the SWFC Community Programmes Team, backed up with twice weekly group-based Zoom meetings on nutrition and exercise.

Pivoting to virtual delivery of the programme has opened up new possibilities for the team, enabling continued involvement and ongoing self-care by individuals who are unable to attend sessions in person.

The Innovation Hub is continuing to support the Fit Fans delivery team in the next phase of the development of the programme.

Find out more about the Innovation Hub

You can find out more about Fit Fans in the video below.