A week in my shoes

14th December 2016

Jonathan Pam writes about his experience of Healthy Living Week.

Follow me on a little journey… Imagine, if you will — a bearded guy sat on a smoothie bike peddling as hard as he can in order to make a smoothie drink to give to a little old lady visiting her son at a South London hospital.

Now imagine, this same bearded hipster-looking guy with about twenty other shoe-less NHS staff all in office attire meditatively going through a surprisingly difficult Tai Chi routine in East London. Who knew Tai Chi could be so difficult.

Please stay with me and now picture this same guy talking to a former Tottenham Hotspur F.C player about diabetes at a launch event for a green gym at a north London Hospital. Followed by him going on a lunchtime walk with a group of paediatric nurses where he teaches them how to use Twitter.

Finally, picture a long stream of selfies, tweets and footsteps taken by him until he collapses onto a couch on the Friday night with a snoring dog and sore feet.

If you hadn’t worked it out the bearded hipster is me, Jonathon Pam. I am the project manager for Healthy Living Week at Healthy London Partnership and the sleeping dog, well her name is Abbie. She is very cute and she even has a beard.

You really did not have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduct that course of events. Yet it has been two months since completing Healthy Living Week and I am still amazed by just how well it went — far beyond our expectations.

From a small group of engaged hospital charities looking to run twenty activities across five London trusts, the week bloomed into over 40 NHS workplaces running 250 activities.

What made it even more special was the fact that many of the activities during Healthy Living Week were designed and run by NHS staff, for NHS staff. The needs of the people who work for the NHS were at the forefront.

A rough estimate Healthy Living Week has impacted on anything from 80,000 to over 200,000 Londoners and their families. Simply put, it was a pretty impressive feat of public engagement.

My story in all of this was something of a typical project manager’s one: I fell into it. I started with Healthy London Partnership about six months ago and in my first few days on the job I attended the hospital charities steering group.

In typical newbie fashion, I understood about 30 per cent of what was going on and forgot everyone’s names. From the small amount I understood, I recognised that there was a real need to tackle workplace health and more importantly put in place real actions on the ground.

Everyone in the group wanted to do something, but were unsure where to start other than with a week of activities. The week grew of course with me starting to understand just how important workplace health is and the consequences of ignoring it.

For instance, 15.2 million working days were lost in 2014 due to work-related stress, depression and anxiety. Beyond the individual human impact, the cost of poor workplace health for the UK is greater than the whole of the NHS budget.

What I took away from Healthy Living Week most acutely was the need to deal with my own health and well-being and a great sense of pride. What I am most proud of is the subtle but powerful stuff that makes that happens.

The amazing communication tools designed by my team to help get out the message, the passionate email from a colleague offering to run a yoga session for free and the manager opening up about their own struggles with mental illness in a team meeting.

Healthy Living Week to me isn’t about the numbers, but getting people to work together to improve their community and motivate others to follow.

About the author

Jonathan Pam joined the NHS in 2012 and has worked for a variety of organisations including the London Leadership Academy, Health Education England and St Georges Foundation Trust. Before joining the NHS, he worked for a number of third sector and not for profit organisations.

For more information about our Prevention programme contact Jemma Gilbert, Senior Lead, at jemma.gilbert2@nhs.net


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