Hits: 61


Reducing health inequalities – building cohesive communities

15th September 2021, Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham

A conference which focuses on how to improve  the health of the most disadvantaged groups


Strategies, policies, experiences, real stories and successes to be told, lessons to be learnt, ideas and experiences to be shared.




Download PDF Programme

Reducing health inequalities – building cohesive communities
A conference which focuses on how to improve
the health of the most disadvantaged groups


Reducing the gap between the best and the worst off


8.45 – 9.15 Registration and Tea/Coffee


 9.15 – 9.30 Welcome and setting the scene

Chair, Svend Elkjaer, Founder/Director, Sports Marketing Network

More Information

Svend Elkjaer is founder and director of the Sports Marketing Network, a leading consultancy and information provider with community sport and physical activity. Being described as ‘a positive disruptor’ Svend has worked across the UK and Denmark with all types of providers and funders helping them to become vibrant, visible and viable.

9.30 – 10.00 Can we design a universal approach that is fairer for those in need?

Martyn Allison, FCIMSPA, Big Difference Company

More Information

Marmot highlighted health inequalities a decade ago and last year showed they had not improved and now likely to get worse because of the pandemic.

 He argued that they are driven by a range of social and economic determinants and in order to narrow the gap we need system wide change. He argues that targeted action on the most deprived is counterproductive and advocates for ‘proportionate universalism’. By taking universal action across the system to improve every bodies health but putting most effort into supporting those in greatest need the gap will narrow.

 Our sector for a range of reasons has tended to focus on keeping the better off active and as a result we have actually been making health inequalities worse. Applying proportionate universalism is not easy at an individual facility or club by just tweaking current practices, it needs whole system change.

 The question now is can we design a universal approach that is fairer for those in need? Can we replace short term targeted projects with a place based system redesign with all providers working together to ensure the needs of the most deprived are met? Have we the level of leadership to achieve this degree of change?

Martyn Allison worked in Local Government for forty years in a variety of roles including  National Advisor for Culture and Sport with the IDeA.  Martyn is the former Chair of the Quest/NBS Board, a Chartered Fellow of CIMSPA and now helps deliver the LGA/Sport England Leadership Essentials programme for both councillors and officers.

10.00 – 10.30 How leisure providers can achieve positive action in reducing health inequalities

Natalie Austin, Regional Head of Public Health Development, Everyone Active

More information

Leisure providers have the opportunity to be at the heart of the community, achieving positive action in reducing health inequalities in those that need it most. Operators need to be prepared to work in innovative ways, provide non-traditional leisure offerings and step outside of the leisure centre four walls or are at risk of adding to the inequality gap. This presentation will demonstrate how achieving positive outcomes in public health cannot be achieved alone. The importance of partnership collaboration and utilising varying skill sets whilst working over organisational boundaries will be explored. In addition, how an operator can complete a health needs assessment to identify the most in need locally and a participatory approach to intervention design will demonstrate how early engagement with the target population is critical.  A robust evaluation framework underpinning the impact leisure has on health will finalise the discussion. The learning will reinforce confidence in the industry when reducing health inequality. Examples will be provided of successful collaboration, along with measures to health outcomes including reduction in GP visits, SROI and direct impact to ward level physical activity participation.

 Natalie Austin is the Regional Head of Public Health Development for Everyone Active. She has created the first physical activity standard evaluation framework for EA and is developing a proportionate universalism approach to interventions across the South East.


10.30 – 11.00 Reducing health inequalities in Birmingham

Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health, Birmingham City Council

More information

Dr Justin Varney is the Director for Public Health at Birmingham City Council. Leading on strategic plans to improve the health and wellbeing of its citizens in the largest local authority in the UK.


Dr Varney originally trained as a General Practitioner before specialising in Public Health Medicine. He has worked at local, regional, national and international levels of the public health system and has experience as a clinician in both primary and secondary care. 

Prior to joining Birmingham City Council, Dr Varney led national programmes at Public Health England on physical activity, health and work, sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, pharmacy and allied health professionals. Dr Varney has a special interest in lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans health inequalities and domestic violence as a public health issue


11.00 -11.30 Tea/Coffee


11.30 -12.00  Creating a movement of movement with other agencies beyond our traditional spheres of influence 

Paul Brivio, Chief Executive, Active Oxfordshire

More Information

Oxfordshire is widely regarded as a green and pleasant land to live, work and play. It was the most active and least inactive County going into Covid(Adult Active Lives Survey). Using Pareto’s principle that is true for 80% of people (although 48% of our young people did not do enough activity to meet the CMO guidelines pre-pandemic). However, inequalities in the County are stark but often hidden.

 Even before COVID struck and brutally exposes the health inequalities in our society, Oxford was the second most unequal place in the Country with a 15-year difference in male life expectancy between the industrial East of the City and the leafy North. In London they measure the difference by tube stations – in Oxford, it is by the stops on the route of the Number 5 bus!

 So we need to change the thinking and the system; we need to change the way we invest and enable. We need to create a movement of movement with other agencies in and beyond our traditional spheres of influence just as we have done to fight Covid as a community.

 We now focus on our “three pillars”- Healthy Active Children; Healthy Place Shaping and Healthy for Life- using physical activity and sport to reach, engage and inspire the people who most need our skills, knowledge, resources to connect, to enjoy and to be healthier. The story of the Very Pretty Pink Bike says it all about building back better and fairer too. A Very Pretty Pink Bike. We are at the very beginning of a long journey. 



Paul Brivio joined Active Oxfordshire in August 2018 as part of a radical transformation project. Paul has previously worked at Sport England (and Sports Council as was) at a national and regional level. Having worked in local government for over 10 years Paul was part of the team that helped create Bromley Mytime as a new leisure trust in 2004. Before coming to Oxfordshire Paul worked as a consultant and was a Lead Quest Assessor working across the country with facilities and development teams. His Favourite Motto is “Do not curse the darkness, light a candle”


12.00 – 12.30 Connecting for Communities  

Ken Masser, Chief Executive Officer, Rossendale Leisure Trust

More Information

Following a turbulent year, one of the encouraging outcomes of the pandemic has been the deepening connections within communities focussed on tackling inequality. A fast-paced reflection on the lessons learned from Pennine Lancashire’s work in tackling inequality through increased connection, collaboration, and community engagement including the currency of appreciation, connection versus control and focussing where the system and lives collide.

 Ken Masser is the Lead for People and Place within the Pennine Lancashire Local Delivery Pilot funded by Sport England. Ken has a  background in Organizational Change, and experience in leading change in communities, organisations and placed based systems.


12.30 – 13.00 Panel discussion


13.00-14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 14.30 

Michelle Howard, Director, Active Communities, The Active Wellbeing Society, Birmingham

More Information


14.30 – 15.00  Understanding and Addressing the Inequalities in Physical Activity

Clare Roscoe, Senior Lecturer, University of Derby,  Author of the Public Health England report

More Information


15.00 – 15.30 .

Warren Smyth, Chief Executive, Abbeycroft Leisure

More information


15.30 – 16.00 Panel debate

16.00 – 16.15 Conclusion and finish