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Research Case studies

Premier League health scheme

Professor Alan White has been researching the subject of men’s health for over 15 years. There are three main strands to his work: gendered epidemiology (exploring the data relating to men and their health and health service usage); men and public Health (how men engage with the health service and how the health service meets the needs of men); and men’s experience of ill-health.

A pioneer for men’s health, Alan set up the Centre for Men’s Health in 2007 and is the world’s first Professor of Men’s Health. In his current role, Alan is supervising six PhD students and regularly lectures across the University. He is actively engaged in research activities within both the Centre for Men’s Health and the Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

Between 2009 and 2012, Alan was engaged in the ground breaking Premier League Health Initiative, funded by the Football Foundation and run in conjunction with 16 elite English football clubs. Alan evaluated the impact of the project, which was aimed at young men, and found that the scheme is effective in altering men’s high risk taking behaviour and that significant improvements in lifestyle were still evident after twelve weeks.

The initiative engaged with over 10,000 men, with more than 70% making positive health changes as a result. It concluded that football clubs can play an important role in addressing key areas of men’s health such as weight gain and alcohol consumption.

Speaking about the study, Professor White commented: "Our findings suggest that a group of men who are traditionally seen as difficult to reach in health promoting activities will engage if it is done in a way that they can relate to, like football. The men really valued the opportunity to take part in activities that were not only fun but could also make them fitter and healthier. When we came to do the twelve week follow-up we were surprised at how many men had reduced their risk factors. This suggests that it is worth taking a more imaginative approach to public health."

Sixteen clubs were awarded funding to run programmes delivered by health trainers, managers and health professionals who received education and training in behavioural change techniques and men's health promotion.

Premier League Health was adopted by men demonstrating multiple problematic lifestyle behaviours, however many of these participants did not view themselves as having poor health: over a third of participants never consulted their GP and over half never used health advice and information services such as NHS Direct.

The initiative was one of the largest ever academic studies of men’s health and the report was produced jointly by the Centre for Men’s Health and the Centre for Active Lifestyles.

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