Oxford United in the Community is set to ramp up its work focused on health and wellbeing by launching a major public health programme to help people improve their cardiovascular health, after securing significant grant funding.
The football club’s official charity confirmed it will deliver the national FIT FANS service, which is designed to increase levels of physical activity, help people lose weight, quit smoking and inspire healthier lifestyles.
A fully funded 13-week programme, locally branded ‘Fit U’s’, will be centrepiece of the charity’s work and available in eight waves across Oxford, Abingdon and Banbury initially.
The new health and wellbeing service will create a full-time ‘Health and Wellbeing Lead’ role thanks to funding secured to deliver the programme and projects which support participants’ physical and mental wellbeing.
The new service has been made possible by Oxford Community Foundation (OCF), Oxfordshire County Council, the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford, the EFL Trust, Sport England and Cherwell District Council.
Chris Lowes, Head of Oxford United in the Community, said: “This is another milestone moment for the charity as we continue to tackle important local issues by harnessing the power of football.
“Fit U’s will help take our positive social impact to the next level and directly support people to improve their health. It builds on existing strengths we have already established in supporting the overall health and wellbeing of thousands of people across the county each year.
“We will work closely with Oxfordshire County Council and other partners and stakeholders to focus on areas which require our support the most to ensure we deliver the best possible positive outcomes. We are grateful to the support of organisations involved and look forward to supporting participants in having positive aspirations for their lives.”
Funding received from Oxfordshire County Council has been made available via Oxfordshire Community Foundation’s Healthy Hearts scheme. The scheme aims to improve or maintain the public’s cardiovascular health, including raising awareness and increasing knowledge and understanding of the issues.
It comes after figures revealed cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes a quarter of all deaths in the UK. CVD is also the leading cause of premature deaths in people experiencing homelessness, mental health issues and those living in deprived areas where smoking rates can be as high as eight times the national average.
Match funding from the EFL Trust and Sport England will enable Fit U’s to support up to 240 participants in its first year of delivery and will help people in making positive changes to their cardiovascular health, including how to quit smoking.
The charity will be working directly with Oxford United FC on a campaign to make as many U’s fans as possible aware of risks to their health and to encourage them to sign up to the life-changing programme.
Chris added: “Many cardiovascular disease cases are preventable and can be reversed by increasing activity levels, eating healthily, drinking responsibly and more.
“We’re concerned the latest annual Public Health Report identified the ten most deprived wards in Oxfordshire have the lowest levels of life expectancy and the highest death rates from cardiovascular disease. We hope our latest provision can help support the reversal of this alarming trend by inspiring people through football-based activities.”
Oxford United in the Community is the football club’s official charity and helps inspire people to live happier and healthier lives in better connected communities using the power of football.