Updated: Friday, 24th November 2017 @ 8:08am

Manchester schools urged to put physical and mental health 'on equal footing'

Manchester schools urged to put physical and mental health 'on equal footing'

| By Matt Tate

Schools are being urged to combat high levels of physical and mental illness in young people and teachers by nominating themselves for a new national health and wellbeing initiative.

The proposed two-year scheme is being spearheaded by Nuffield Health, who have committed to funding the pilot.

They will invest in state-of-the-art fitness facilities and equipment for the chosen school as well as developing a wellbeing strategy to suit the candidate’s needs and those of their community.

This comes after a recent study by the not for profit health organisation and think tank 2020health revealed some alarming statistics.

These included the fact that 75% of school children living with mental illnesses go unnoticed, and that nearly a quarter of all 11 to 15-year-old boys were medically obese in 2011 – among the highest levels in history.

Nuffield Health wants political parties to make health and wellbeing a central policy focus in their election campaigns.

And Bolton West Labour MP Julie Hilling has come out in support of the initiative’s proposals and hopes to see Manchester schools put forward their bids.

She told MM: “It sounds like a really interesting initiative. We’re committed particularly to training teachers around mental health issues and putting mental health and physical health on an equal footing.

“We know that there is a phenomenal amount of young people who are suffering from mental health issues, but we also know that physical health and exercise are closely linked to mental wellbeing.

“In Greater Manchester we’ve got areas of high deprivation and poverty, where it’s very difficult for children to have good, nutritious diets and to be able to get enough exercise.

“So this sounds like a really interesting initiative and I hope my local schools in Bolton West put themselves forward.”

The pilot scheme, which will begin in September for the chosen school, would also offer a 12-point Health MOT to all teachers and a health check to pupils that would concentrate on nutrition, exercise and emotional wellbeing.

As well as tackling obesity and lack of exercise, the collaborative study between Nuffield and 2020health concluded that emotional wellbeing had to be targeted just as strongly – 73% of teaching staff said that their job had a negative impact on their all-round health.

Nuffield’s Managing Director of Wellbeing Dr Andrew Jones said: “At a time when conditions like obesity and mental illness are on the rise in children and young adults, there is clearly a need to invest in proactive and preventative health and wellbeing initiatives in schools.

“This area continues to be neglected and underfunded and of all the manifesto pledges that have been made in the last few weeks, there has been little mention of improving the wellbeing of pupils and teachers in secondary schools.

“We are looking for a school to take part in our pilot which shares our vision for a healthy, productive and creative environment. 

“This initiative has the potential to transform wellbeing in schools, by providing effective support and infrastructure, setting a benchmark to which UK primary and secondary schools can aspire.”

The successful candidate would see a Head of Wellbeing seconded to their school, and Nuffield would try to improve all aspects of health during the two year period of investment.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee, said: “Young people, who are experiencing mental health problems, benefit from support at the earliest opportunity.

“It is vital too, to focus on prevention and wellbeing and I am delighted to support this pilot of a head of wellbeing in schools, as it has the potential to benefit staff and pupils alike.”

Nuffield Health is the UK’s leading employee health and wellbeing provider, and In Manchester it has committed itself to improving the health of the city.

The opening of a new gym and fitness Centre at The Printworks, the Nuffield Medical Centre at Salford Quays, and announcement of a state-of-the-art hospital and wellbeing centre on Hathersage Road to be built by 2017 are all ways organisation is trying to make the city healthier.

Independent evaluation of the pilot will be carried out by the Work Foundation, a leading is provider of research-based analysis – to apply click here

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