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“District preventative services have huge potential to tackle health inequalities.” DCN response to the Government’s Sports Strategy

Published: 31 August 2023
Picture showing two rows of gym equipment, with stepping machines in the foreground and treadmillls in the background

Responding to the launch of the Government’s Sports Strategy, ‘Get Active: A strategy for the future of sport and physical activity’, Cllr Hannah Dalton, DCN Spokesperson for Health, Housing and Hardship said:

“The District Councils’ Network (DCN) shares the Government’s commitment to increasing physical activity and making sport more inclusive and welcoming for all – this at the heart of what district councils do every day. We welcome the recognition of the value of local government and its importance for health outcomes. The new strategy is a step in the right direction.

“Councils are proud to be the biggest funder of sport, leisure and wellbeing services, parks and green spaces in England. However, these services are under extreme pressure.  For many parts of the country, our ageing public leisure infrastructure urgently needs investment. While we recognise that money is tight, this strategy misses the chance to think creatively about investing new money in these vital interventions.

“DCN research has shown that physical activity and community engagement is a key driver of public health. It can save hundreds of millions for the NHS. We encourage the Government to make a stronger link between the sport strategy and the implementation of Integrated Care Systems. District preventative services have huge potential to tackle health inequalities if they are put at the heart of the health integration agenda.

“We also welcome the focus on decarbonisation. But further investment is required if we are to ensure the long-term sustainability of sporting and leisure infrastructure and deliver against wider carbon reduction targets.”



Councils in England are the biggest funder of sport, leisure, parks and green spaces. They are responsible for 2,727 leisure centres and 27,000 parks and green spaces which includes 33% of all swimming pools; 20% of all health and fitness facilities; 13% of sports halls and 31% of grass pitches.

Research commissioned by DCN from the University of East Anglia and Health Economics, ‘Fit for the Future: The Health Value of Wellbeing and Leisure Services shows that engagement of just over 1 million of the inactive population of England in a prescribed leisure services programme could provide the following impacts over a 10-year period:

  • Almost 45,000 diseases avoided
  • A direct saving to the NHS of £314 million for the cost of treatment of those diseases
  • 70,000 Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALY) gained (a year of life in perfect health is equal to one QALY)
  • This QALY gain has a health value of £1 billion and economic value of £4.2 billion
  • A 3.7 year reduction in the healthy life expectancy gap

A recent report by the King’s Fund,  Driving better health outcomes through integrated care systems: The role of district councils’ highlights the powerful role district councils can play in driving health outcomes with ICSs.

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