Intelligent Health review of the year 2021

The Mother Runners from Barnsley


While 2021 has been another year of COVID, the team at Intelligent Health has been working with partners and organisations across the UK to help increase levels of activity and to bring communities together.

The Beat the Street game took place across 20 towns in England and Scotland this year, with a huge total of 311,945 people taking part. This takes the total number of Beat the Street participants to more than 1.5million — 1,533,646 to be exact!

Across these schemes, 832 schools took part and there was an average of 15,597 players per game. In total, players clocked up a grand total of 2,829,922 active travel miles — enough to go to the moon and back nearly six times.

Beat the Street in Sheffield was the largest ever Beat the Street programme with more than 11% of the population (518,000) taking part. A total of 60,187 participants walked, jogged, ran, cycled, scooted and rolled a total of 452,870 miles between them during the course of the six-week game between 16 June and 28 July.

Beat the Street Sheffield not only helped thousands of adults and children to get more active, but also supported the Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity. The game was delivered by Move More and Sheffield City Council. It is delivered by Intelligent Health, with funding from the National Lottery, Sport England and local partners.

Intelligent Health enthusiastically supports the Playing Out movement and as part of this, the organisers of Beat the Sheffield held a “Play Streets” event over the Bank Holiday weekend where two streets were closed to traffic to give children the chance to play games outdoors safely.

Beat the Street Leicester was another success story with 40,461 players. This game was delivered by Intelligent Health and is funded by the National Lottery on behalf of Sport England, Leicester City Council, and the Canal and River Trust. This game saw one four-year-old, Darcey, raise money for the Charlie Gard Foundation by walking 50 miles as part of the charity’s Challenge 21 Land’s End to John O’Groats campaign where people are collectively walking the 874-mile distance.

Beat the Street was played in Swindon for the third time, and despite expectations that slightly fewer people would play this time, the game broke previous records with 29,376 people taking part and travelling 319,874 miles!

Once again, the smaller games continued to do well. These games are smaller versions of the Beat the Street game where the competition is managed by partners locally while overseen by Intelligent Health.

Wigston saw 3,230 people sign up and together walk, cycle and roll 32,803 miles in the game. Beat the Street Taunton attracted just over 5,000 participants who together clocked up 62,645 miles.

Games in South Charnwood in Leicestershire and Calne in Wiltshire saw 3,078 and 3,352 people sign up respectively and travel 13,035.5 and 57,607 miles respectively. A five-week game in Harwich and Dovercourt was played by 2,817 people who clocked up 35,165 miles.

This was also the first time that Beat the Street was played in a summer holiday. Beat the Street Wolverhampton took place in July and was a Yo! Activity, supported by City of Wolverhampton Council and WV Active, with funding from the National Lottery via Sport England. As well as cards, fobs and maps, players were also given an activity pack containing a wallchart, stickers and a set of fun challenges to try each week. During the game, 9,567 people walked, cycled, wheeled and scooted 60,867 miles over four weeks between 20th July and 17th August.

While still under a strict lockdown for the beginning of the year, restrictions eased slightly, enabling us to deliver Beat the Street games in March in Hamilton and Blantyre, Derby and Barnsley and Rotherham. Beat the Street Hamilton and Blantyre saw former footballer Roddy McKenzie cycle around all of the 65 Beat Boxes in one go to raise £1,200 for the Butchery Kitchen, enabling 240 meals to be delivered to families in need.

The summer phase of games also saw competitions in Burnley, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Northampton and Middlesbrough. Beat the Street Wokingham was supported by Wokingham Borough Council and is funded by DEFRA.

Each Beat the Street game this year has had a different emphasis depending on the aims of local organisations and partnerships and the success is down to working closely with national bodies such as Sport England, Paths for All and Defra, plus councils and partners such as the Canal and River Trust to deliver a successful Beat the Street game. We have also worked with local partners and stakeholders to ensure a bespoke Sustain phase to ensure that players are supported to keep up the lifestyle changes they’ve developed.

For example, in Swindon, a junior parkrun event has evolved out of the Beat the Street game. During the 2018 game, the local engagement co-ordinator linked with the existing parkrun at Lydiard Park and has worked closely with them to create a parkrun at Sevenfields. So far, there have been more than 30 races and event regularly attracts an average of 116 finishers. The success of the project has been down to the volunteers that organise each week and serve the community, however this would not have been possible without the initial drive from Beat the Street Swindon’s Sustain plan and input at the beginning.

Intelligent Health continued to expand as a firm with lots of key appointments — Steve Rose was appointed as data consultant to help the team make more informed strategic decisions and Kevin McDonnell as chair. Kevin has extensive experience running global operations in varied business environments with a focus on the healthcare and technology sector.

Intelligent Health created a series of videos this year, showcasing players’ personal stories on how Beat the Street has helped them.

One video shows a team of women coming together to get active in Barnsley through the Sport England funding of Beat the Street via the National Lottery. Beat the Street Barnsley – YouTube The video features Katy from the Mother Runners who were formed as a result of Beat the Street and hold several running groups a week for mums.

This video shows how the Somerset Active Sports Partnership delivered Beat the Street in Taunton and how it engaged various partners, distribution points and schools, giving the local community a real buzz. Beat the Street Taunton – YouTube

A video in Sheffield shows how Move More Sheffield and partners used Beat the Street Sheffield to connect residents and tackle issues such as social isolation and inactivity. The Beat the Street Sheffield game was a huge success connecting more partners to the mission to tackle health inequalities.

During filming, videographer George MacCallum was shocked at the low morale amongst GPs owing to the huge workloads, and wanted to capture a piece that would raise awareness of the situation. The clip was shared online by the EveryDoctor campaign and has been watched more than 50,000 times.

Dr William Bird continued to appear on BBC Breakfast as an expert GP, and appeared regularly in the national press and media, including this article on BBC Bitesize! was also interviewed on a podcast with Move Consulting

In Scotland, the Beat the Street games continue to be extremely popular and a powerful tool in reducing traffic and encouraging active travel.

One of the people who commissioned Beat the Street South Lanarkshire, Head of Fleet and Environmental Services, Shirley Clelland, said that every community that has had a Beat the Street project over the last few years has had an amazing level of uptake, even this year amid the pandemic. She said: “Encouraging all ages to take part by walking, running, rolling and cycling has not only brought communities together but helped people make a more positive and sustainable choice in their local travel arrangements which can have real benefits for their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.”

In June, the team exhibited at the Active Travel Scotland and also had a presence at COP26 in November.

Scottish programme manager Val Caldwell was nominated in the first-ever Scottish Walking Awards held by Paths for All, and Craig Dalziel, engagement co-ordinator for Beat the Street Renfrewshire was highly commended in the Annual Achievement Award presented by Bikeability Scotland.

This year also saw Intelligent Health’s head of research Marc Harris awarded a doctorate. His work is widely published and this year includes papers on gamification, trees, and how children at urban schools can benefit from learning in nature.

Intelligent Health has this year been part of ‘Ideas To Action’ a programme focused on finding new ways to overcome inequalities in physical activity run by the Design Council and funded by Sport England. Intelligent Health were funded by Sport England along with 17 other partners in order to help us all design methods to support people who face barriers to becoming active. The programme is about doing things differently: working together and designing new solutions — based on what people want and need — to encourage people to become more active.

Dr William Bird, founder of Intelligent Health said: “It’s been another amazing year where we’ve worked hard to help communities to get active. Our focus this year has been to ensure that our offering is sustainable and offers a strong Sustain phase, working with partners to ensure that each Beat the Street is bespoke and matches partners’ priorities.

“We’re already hard at work planning out games for 2022 and would like to thank everyone who has worked with us and got involved in the active travel movement.

“We started the Beat the Street game with a small version in Hyde Park where we used mobile phones and had to change the batteries every day. It’s incredible to think that from such a humble beginning, that more than 1.5m people have played the game.”

Intelligent Health and Rounders England (where IH Director Katherine Knight is Chair) have both been working closely with Sport England as part of their system partners who will be driving forward the Uniting the Movement strategy. This is the 10-year strategy to tackle inequalities and inactivity across England.

Next year, watch out for new programmes across the UK and Europe, a new digital offer including our in game App and improved use of data and insight value in the planning and commissioning of public health and wellbeing as well as use in academic research to strengthen the evidence base.


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