Birmingham's overbearing problem - a sporting solution?

Earlier in January the Daily Telegraph reported that Two-thirds of Birmingham is overweight, says health survey

The findings based on a study of 1,350 adults found of the two thirds of Birmingham residents who were overweight, half were clinically obese.

The survey, based on as series of 'health checks' in 13 locations across Britain, also discovered that obesity is occurring at an increasingly young age. In Manchester, it found the average age of the overweight population was 28, compared to 47 in Birmingham.

The findings come at a time of increasing focus on sport in the run upto the London 2012 Olympics and Birmingham's role as a sporting city and the City Council's desire to build an olympic sized 50m pool; Olympic swimming hopes for one of UK's sporting Jewels.

Sport has an important role in addressing the obesity problem while also aiding regeneration as the City Council's Birmingham Sports Facilities Strategy (Phase 1) Final Report notes as part of the Birmingham 2026 Community Strategy.

Government has challenged all local authorities to raise the level of participation in sport and active recreation by 1% per annum in order to address broader society issues, particularly of poor health.

Birmingham's profile is important to consider when looking at how the council can use sport to tackle obesity and benefit the health of all of Birmingham's citizens. The population has been estimated to be 1,008,700 in 2007 of whom young people under the age of 16 make up about 23.5%, the highest percentage of young people of any European city. BME communities make up an important and significant proportion of the Birmingham population as can be demonstrated in my earlier post, A Birmingham multicultural welcome to the UK.

The levels of participation for the city are relatively high given the socio-economic make up of the population; this is likely to be due to the disproportionately high numbers of young people.

Car ownership and transport is another influence on access to sporting provision and highlights the importance of public transport projects such as the Metro and how transport provides an overriding influence on all areas of Birmingham's citizens' lives. The 2001 national census showed that 38.5% of Birmingham had no access to a car or van.

Some areas of Birmingham and some sports are served more than others which contributes to the access opportunities for people and the ability of people to access sports.

Some headline comments cited in the BIRMINGHAM SPORTS FACILITIES STRATEGY PHASE 1 FINAL REPORT are shown below reflecting the wide number of sports opportunities in Birmingham but also the challenges in the provision of these sports:

Athletics - North Birmingham is quite well served, with Alexander Stadium, which hosts international events. In the South of the City the only provision is at Birmingham University where the track is in good condition but there is no clubhouse/ changing rooms/ toilets etc.

Badminton - Badminton is one of the most popular sports within Birmingham with a participation rate of 2.6% compared to 2% for golf and 6.4% for football.

Basketball - There are good levels of participation across the City although for young people the majority of activity takes place within school basketball leagues (approx 50 teams).

Boxing - There are 14 registered clubs based all over the City although half are in Ladywood District.

Climbing - There are two major indoor climbing walls in the City together with provision at Aston University and an outdoor facility at The Ackers.

Cricket - Levels of participation in cricket are slightly higher in Birmingham than the national and regional average. Indoor provision across the City has improved in recent years but outdoor provision is inadequate and of poor quality. Indoor cricket is increasingly popular in inner city areas, where outdoor provision is limited.

Football - Football is still one of the most widely played sports across the City and its popularity with the BME community is on the increase.

Golf - Birmingham is at the forefront of junior golf development work, and is recognised nationally by England Golf for its urban golf development programme, especially in schools and after school clubs.

Gymnastics - The new Gymnastics and Martial Arts Centre opened at Alexander Stadium in September 2008 has 1,840 sq ft of gymnastics working area and 450 retractable spectator seats. The specification size was increased from its original in order to meet International training standards.

Netball - There is a strong netball structure across the City and despite the fact that it can be easily accommodated on dual use sites, there is a lack of adequate facilities to meet the demands of all aspects of the game.

Tennis - There has been a steady decline in the number and quality of “pay and play” courts across the City, which have traditionally been located within parks. Birmingham already has 18 indoor courts, and the level of provision is higher than the regional average. The level of provision is in line with that for England as a whole.


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