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Friday Feature: Health Improvement at CACT

Friday 19th August 2016

Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) Health Improvement advisors are back again this year with the popular Change4Life Summer Roadshow. This offers support to Greenwich residents and their families who would like to make healthier lifestyle choices. So if you're interested in healthier eating and being more physically active then why not drop in and have a chat with one of our friendly advisors.

The roadshow is commissioned by the Royal Borough of Greenwich Public Health and Well Being and has returned to the Royal Borough for the third consecutive year, offering support for people with a huge range of sign posting opportunities and services such as 5 week cookery clubs and healthy eating advice, single session family cookery clubs, information on a wide range of activities such as healthy walks, cycling, gardening, and over 200 different opportunities to become more physical active around our borough.

There are specific games and activities for families, such as the sugar cube game, where people can pile up giant, white cubes to guess how much sugar is in the food and drink they regularly consume.

The roadshow is taking place alongside our year-round provision which includes smoking cessation support from our seven stop-smoking drop ins, taste of health cookery clubs delivered by GCDA and health and wellbeing support including fuel and debt advice, lifestyle checks,  and support for residents who maybe feeling they would like to meet new people or are feeling low mood.  

Our team can be also be found at events all over the borough, so if you see us around come along and say hello. 

Our support includes much more than a one off chat or discussion. We can check in with you at least 3 times throughout the year to help re-engage with services or suggest others you might like to take up.

This is all dealt with through the Greenwich Healthy Living Line, a free phone number also commissioned by the Royal Borough of Greenwich where you can speak to an adviser who is able to connect people to a wide range of community assists in just one phone call. 

Typically residents can call in and discuss a number of concerns they may have, including money worries, low mood, social isolation, drinking less alcohol or keeping warm and well in winter.

One person who has seen his wellbeing improve immensely after using our services is Ken Jackson. 

Ken found out about CACT's men’s health group after attending a Greenwich Get Walking session and bumping into Matt Phillips, a coordinator for the programme. After the walk, they would go for a cup of tea, and it became clear that Ken was going through a difficult time. 

Talking to Matt, head in hands, he opened up about the depression from which he suffered. He had lost his job, his marriage and his home in a relatively short space of time, and he moved in with his mum; who herself was suffering from dementia. 

To add to the hefty weight of his mental health and wellbeing, he found himself becoming a carer as well, putting his own problems to one side in order to prioritise his mum. But after being made aware of the men’s health group, Matt soon noticed a change in his attitude, simply through the talks he had with Ken over some cake and tea. 

Ken soon found a range of activities through CACT to take his mind off his problems. As well as attending the men’s health group, he got involved in walking football at Eltham Goals on Tuesday mornings and now regularly attends tournaments with the rest of the team. Not only this, but he had people to talk to. 

After his mum’s passing, Matt recognised Ken to really take control of his life independently. He now comes to the club regularly with a much more positive attitude, the social aspect on its own helping him feel not so alone.

Often, it’s a simple phone call to our services which can help turn someone’s life around. Jo heard about the health improvement team’s Greenwich Get Active (GGA) programme via a leaflet she spotted while out in Woolwich in January 2015. She was feeling depressed and wanted to get out of the house more, so she thought she’d reach out.

“I was feeling really down,” she said. “So I called the advisor and the person on the end of the phone was great. He posted me a programme with lots of activities I could try.

“I’m disabled so I went to my GP to see which of these activities I would be able to do. He referred me to the Healthwise Scheme, and I went from there.”

She started going to the gym and her fitness gradually began to build. “I can’t do much with my upper body but I got the go ahead to use the cycle and treadmill. It was really satisfying feeling my strength and fitness build.”

Following some surgery, she suffered a slight setback in her fitness but she didn’t let it stop her trying. “I had to rest after a couple of operations. If I didn’t feel strong enough to use a bike or a treadmill, I’d visit a spa pool in Eltham and do more gentle exercise there.”

She soon started to feel stronger again and was introduced to a couple of weight machines she could use. But while she’s thrilled about how much her fitness has improved, it’s the mental differences she’s experienced which she’s just pleased with.

“The feel-good factor is so important,” she said. “I don’t feel so depressed anymore, and I rarely get upset now. I can’t believe how much better I feel generally. Before I discovered GGA I would just take my children to school, head back home and feel sorry for myself. I was eating too much and drinking too much alcohol, which really wasn’t doing me any good.

“My life is so much different now. I’d been suffering from swelling in my legs which could be really uncomfortable but since I’ve taken up exercise it’s reduced a lot. In fact, I notice that if I don’t exercise as much it returns. I’ve also stopped taking so many painkillers.”

And she has nothing but praise for the GGA team. “Everyone I’ve spoken to there has been brilliant. They’ve provided me with so much information, encouraged me and probably put up with my moaning! They often suggested different activities for me to try – I’m now thinking of giving Tai Chi a go.” 

“Physical activity is definitely part of my daily routine now – I even exercise on holiday! I was feeling so down before I found GGA. I’d been taking anti depressants but I decided that I didn’t want to be medicated anymore; I wanted to try something different. I’m so glad I made that call.”

But the team hasn’t forgotten its roots, and still helps thousands of people across the borough to quit smoking for good, thanks to the Kick the Habit programme, which has been running since CACT's Health Improvement programme was introduced in 2006. 

Its drop in service is available all over Greenwich and, to ensure as many people as possible know about the service, roadshows run twice a year. 

Carol Regan signed up to during our Quit Your Way roadshow earlier this year. “I do my shopping at Asda in Charlton every Friday so always saw the roadshow there. I fobbed them off for a few weeks but after a while I decided to sign up as I had been thinking about quitting. 

“I’m so glad I did – it’s going brilliantly so far. An advisor calls me once a week and it’s so nice to hear someone say ‘well done’ for what I’m doing. They offer lots of advice and we can bounce ideas off each other. It’s great to be able to tell them how much better I’m feeling; that my taste and smell senses are returning.  

“I’m also asthmatic, but over the past couple of days I’ve realised the horrible cough I used to wake up with every morning has almost gone. To be able to say these things out loud and receive praise for that really spurs me on. 

“They’re not judgmental at all; they are fully supportive and don’t make me feel bad if I’m having a little wobble. My first day smoke-free was on my birthday at the end of February; hopefully next year I’ll be celebrating more than turning another year older!”

The advisors’ friendly, approachable, non-judgmental traits are what has seen the health improvement team thrive over the past 10 years. This is complemented by its unique partnership with Royal Greenwich Public Health and Wellbeing, which continues to thrive and evolve alongside the needs of the Greenwich residents it serves.

Give us a call at the Greenwich Healthy Living Line, call FREE on 0800 470 4831.

For for more information, visit the Health Improvement page.