In 2006/07 Blackburn with Darwen had one of the lowest levels of adult participation in physical activity in the whole country, measured through the Sport England Active People Survey. As a result Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Care Trust Plus entered into a unique partnership, investing £6m over three years in the re:fresh initiative.
Following the success of this three year initiative and the proven health outcomes it achieved, the Council and Care Trust Plus pledged to re-invest in re:fresh for another two years from 1st April 2011 & since then has now become an established part of Public Health improvement initiatives and is embedded within the health and Well-being Strategy.
In 2010/11 the Council had to find £30m of efficiency savings and both re:fresh and leisure services took proportionate cuts resulting in a significant review of services and programmes, including re:fresh. This review resulted in reduced opening hours, programme changes including the introduction of some charges and also adaptations to the re:fresh model of delivery.
Subsequently 2011/12 was a challenging, transitional year which resulted in a drop in participation. Throughout that year and into 2012/13 the project team worked hard to build and maintain positive momentum as well as diversifying to better engage with the voluntary and community sector which resulted in once again increasing participation levels, despite the changes which were required to be made. 2013/14 has continued to build on that success and levels of participation are now at the highest ever recorded levels!
Prior to the introduction of re:fresh in 2008, Blackburn with Darwen had some of the worst health statistics in the country, many of which were linked to physical inactivity. The initial phase of re:fresh concentrated on raising awareness of this poor health. The next step was to explore what needed to be done to improve health and wellbeing and how agencies and communities could work together to make a difference. It was as a result of these discussions, and in response to the fact that Blackburn with Darwen had the third worst level of physical activity among adults that the re:fresh project was introduced.
What is re:fresh?
re:fresh offers the people of Blackburn with Darwen the opportunity to access a huge range of leisure, health and well-being activities, health and dietary advice plus much more. re:fresh provides the launch pad for people to make changes so that they can live longer and live better in Blackburn with Darwen.
re:fresh has also supported and further developed the excellent work of the borough’s Healthy Communities Partnership and the Health Trainer programme through the engaging and enabling strand of the initiative.
These community projects work across the borough’s neighbourhood areas to help increase participation in physical activity and offer personal support and information to help individuals make sustainable healthier lifestyle changes.