Birmingham hosts national workshop on tackling health inequalities

VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group), a national charity that represents leading not-for-profit organisations who provide services to disabled people across England, has organised its second national workshop at St Martin in the Bull Ring, Birmingham on 26 September to address health inequalities.

The workshop will be chaired by Fiona Ritchie, VODG trustee and managing director for mental health and learning disabilities at Turning Point, a social enterprise which supports people with complex needs, and Scott Watkin eye care and vision development officer at SeeAbility.

There are over 11 million people with a limiting long-term illness, impairment or disability in the UK. This impacts significantly on people’s quality of life and may reduce life expectancy. For example, people with learning disabilities have a reduced life expectancy of 15 – 20 years compared with the general population. Poor access to healthcare and health screening programmes, and higher rates of unhealthy lifestyles play a significant role in this statistic.

Poor nutrition is strongly associated and causally linked with a number of long-term and complex conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and type II diabetes. On average obesity alone deprives an individual of an extra nine years of life.

This workshop aims to share ideas and best practice across the sector in order to tackle health inequalities. Chris Hatton from Lancaster University will share findings from the recent VODG food and drink audit on nutritional value and introduce a nutrition audit tool for service providers at this year’s workshop.

Chris Hatton, Lancaster University, said:

“What we eat and drink is obviously crucial to our health and happiness. It is great to be working with VODG and its member organisations to develop a food audit to get a clear picture of what people with learning disabilities are actually eating and drinking, as one piece in the jigsaw to support people to healthier, happier and longer lives.”

Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said:

“Having a balanced diet, alongside physical activity and exercise, are key features of maintaining good health. Providers supporting disabled people have an important responsibility to promote the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

“Our joint work with Lancaster University, whilst in the early stages, is exploring how providers can better understand and support people to have a balanced diet. Our national workshop will share lessons from our work to date and identify good practice as we continue to maintain our focus on tackling health inequalities.”

Fiona Ritchie, Managing Director at Turning Point, said,

“At Turning Point we support people with disabilities across the country and aim to reduce health inequalities by ensuring people have good access to health care and supporting people to make healthier choices.

“Claire, from Milton Keynes has lost seven stone since moving into supported accommodation with Turning Point after many years living in a long stay hospital. Now she has greater choice and control in her life she has experienced a huge improvement in her quality of life and overall health.

“I’m really delighted to be chairing this event to help shine a light on best practice within the sector.”