Intelligent Health’s review of the past business year

Much like the academic year, the year at Intelligent Health runs ends in July, making it a good time to pause and reflect on everything that’s happened in the last 12 months.

And what a 12 months it’s been.

It’s been another strange and difficult year of living during COVID which has hit everyone hard. We’ve tried hard to pull out the positive points of what this year has shown us, such as how our team has gone over and beyond to ensure that we’re able to work remotely and deliver games from our kitchen tables, and how that the pandemic has really brought home to people the importance of looking after their health. We’ve always known that spending time being active in green spaces is essential for your physical and mental health, but we’re really pleased that the subject has moved higher up on people’s agenda.

Thanks to support from Sport England via the National Lottery, plus other funders and stakeholders such as the Canal & River Trust and Paths for All, we’ve been able to reach more than 250,000 this year via Beat the Street.

The year has flown by, but here are some of our particular highlights:

Back in June, we were still delivering our Beat the Bug programme while in lockdown which was an online campaign aimed to encouraging people to stay well, connected and active while Beat the Street games were on pause. June also saw Dr William Bird start his regular early morning slots on BBC Breakfast speaking on COVID and also on broader health topics. Despite the early bird starts at 6.30am, William has spoken on subjects ranging from vaccines to long COVID.

In September through to November, we delivered a seven-week game in Eastbourne which was a really inspiring showcase of partnership working. It was an absolute pleasure to work on a project with so many different stakeholders ranging from tourism to a walking festival and the South Downs National Park. This beautiful setting also helped us entice BBC Breakfast to join us to film live at a school, with a family and on the iconic seafront.

We also held Beat the Street around the Forth and Clyde area and East Renfrewshire.

In November, William took part in a conference with Baroness Floella Benjamin and Eden Project founder Sir Tim Smit, marking the 25th anniversary of the first UN Children’s Conference, discussing how adults can support children to become more engaged in the natural world. Additionally, our Beat the Bug campaign reached the finals of an online influence award but we were pipped at the post by a Scotland tourism campaign!

In December, William took part in an online seminar led by the Co Chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking, to explore how cycling and walking will be key elements in securing the aims of the Environment Bill. He also found time to participate in this Guardian podcast on listening to bird calls.

In January, we hit the ground running — literally – with a new challenge aimed at keeping our team active. While our days are busy with encouraging people to get outdoors, we needed to ensure we were doing the same here! Every staff member who got outdoors for a walk or run was invited to nominate a charity to receive a donation from Intelligent Health.

In January, we began our Air Quality project in Wokingham to help MyJourney to encourage active travel and improve air quality.

In March, we began Sport England-funded Beat the Street games in Derby, joined by Rotherham in April. We held a successful game in Hamilton and Blantyre, where one former footballer challenged himself to visit every Beat Box in the game, raising money for food for disadvantaged families on his way.

Many cities who have commissioned Beat the Street games have really been hit hard during lockdown with some seeing high rates of COVID, so we were delighted in June to launch our biggest game to date in Sheffield. Currently, 56,000 people are playing the game in Sheffield, and we are seeing huge participation in Leicester and Barnsley too. We’re grateful to the public health teams who have commissioned the game in places such as Leicester.

This year, our team has grown too, with the appointment of a new data consultant, a product manager and support staff across engagement and mapping.

We could not have got through this year and held these games without the enthusiastic support and long-term vision of the public health teams in these areas, plus our funding from Sport England via the National Lottery. Thank you to everyone who has helped us launch Beat the Street this year and played the game — we really couldn’t have done it without you.

Here’s some feedback from a teacher in Sheffield who really summed up what it is all about with this feedback: “Just want to say a HUGE thank you! I’m a teacher at Marlcliffe and the kids are absolutely obsessed with Beat the Street! I have never seen anything motivate them to get moving so much! They have so much school pride, and the team ethos around school is lovely. What a brilliant idea and such a lovely boost for the kids who have had such a challenging year. Thank you for everything.”

Another player suffering from Long Covid got in touch to say: “Beat the Street has most definitely helped the whole family get out and exercise more. My eldest daughter only learned to ride her bike during first lockdown and has now been doing five to six-mile bike rides for Beat the Street; everything we do revolves around planning a route to get as many Beat Boxes in as possible. It’s certainly helping my long Covid rehab. Also we have found places in our own village that I never knew existed! An amazing initiative and I hope it returns soon.”

Sport England’s Investment Committee have now agreed an extension to support a further 100,000 more participants in the behaviour change programme that creates a social norm around getting active, meaning Middlesbrough and Northampton will host the popular Beat the Street game this autumn.

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