Premier League Health is an initiative committed to tackling the growing number of young men in Britain facing serious health issues.
Unhealthy lifestyles have meant that in certain parts of British society there are groups of men whose life expectancy is, shockingly, lower than that of their counterparts in the third world.
But this unique £1.63m three-year programme, funded by The Football Pools, is already making a positive impact, with more than 3,000 men signing up in its first year.
The investment has allowed 16 Premier League and Championship clubs to help raise awareness of men’s health issues, and encourage people to adopt longer term changes.
Meeting the health needs of vulnerable groups of men, especially those from poorer backgrounds, is a challenge. Premier League Health is helping and has tackled issues as diverse as depression, obesity and alcohol and substance abuse.
Premier League Health targets men aged 18 and over, with clubs offering help in a community setting with initiatives including weekly classes and group sessions with NHS health trainers in and around iconic football grounds local to the men.
Premier League Health – Year 1 results
A three-year evaluation into Premier League Health began in 2010, led by Professor Alan White of Leeds Metropolitan University, the world’s first Professor of Men’s Health. Among a sample of 520 men, the study found:
- 93% were aged 18-44
- 52% were unemployed
- Of the 48% in employment, only 40% worked full-time
- 77% were fans of the club in whose scheme they participated
Many fell short of recommended healthy lifestyle targets:
- 75% were not getting 30 minutes moderate intensity physical activity on five days a week
- 36% were considered to be at high risk of developing problems because of prolonged sitting
- 84% were not consuming five daily portions of fruit and vegetables
- 51% exceeded the recommended weekly limit of 21 units of alcohol
- 25% smoked
- 60% were classed as overweight or obese
- 70% reported having three or more risk factors for cardiovascular diseases
- 43% felt that their health had suffered as a result of recent stressful events
- 20% reported having no person they could rely on in times of trouble
In spite of this, more than 80% of the men said they did not think they had a health problem.
Professor White hailed the progress of Premier League Health in its first year, adding: "Men are not ignorant of their health, but many don't know who can offer the right kind of support. This is an excellent opportunity to see if football clubs can bring in lads so that we can work on interventions that will practically improve the health of future generations.
"The early evidence from Premier League Health is encouraging. To get 3,000 men in its first year is no mean feat and already there are many examples of positive outcomes."