25th January 2024, London – London Sport is now the largest publisher of physical activity data for social prescribers in the UK. This means that sports and physical activity sessions – which are listed on London Sport’s Open Sessions platforms – will soon be available for social prescribing link workers. Access to these sessions will, in the near future, be able to help link workers refer “service users” into local physical activity opportunities.
London Sport hosts nearly 110,000 sports and physical activity sessions on the Open Sessions platform. Work is taking place to explore how this data can be linked to a social prescribing platform to enable link workers to prescribe activities to improve Londoner’s health and wellbeing.
To explain how this system works and what it means for London’s health network, we sat down with London Sport’s Head of Digital, Technology and Innovation, Chris Evans.
What are Open Sessions and Get Active?
Open Sessions and Get Active are both digital platforms run by London Sport. Get Active allows users to find sport and physical activity sessions (many of them free or low cost) in their local area. All you need to do is type in your postcode, and you can find loads of activities happening near you.
Open Sessions is the ‘behind the scenes’ platform that feeds activity data into Get Active. Clubs, sports facilities and other providers can input their data into Open Sessions, which is a non-commercial open data publishing tool, and means that their sessions appear on Get Active free of charge and are made available to Londoners who are looking for ways to be active. But what we’ve now done with Open Sessions means we’ve laid the foundations to enable these sessions to be used beyond just Get Active.
So where else will these sessions appear?
The end goal is to enable thousands of social prescribing link workers to access these sessions – these are people who connect individuals to community-based support, including activities and services that meet practical, social, and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing. Often these link workers use platforms, similar to Get Active, to discover information about community services. It’s these platforms and systems we want to integrate with to help link workers easily discover local physical activity sessions to refer patients into. Currently, these platforms don’t show sport and physical activity opportunities, however, now we’ve successfully created a compliant data feed from Open Sessions data, step one of this process is complete.
Why does this matter to our sector?
Physical activity plays a huge role in social prescribing. Social prescribing is what happens when health professionals help patients by referring them to non-pharmaceutical treatments to improve their health and wellbeing. Patients are sent to social prescribing link workers who will work with them to find a suitable activity. This might include a chess club to improve mental health, an art class to minimise anxiety, or of course a sport or physical activity to reduce obesity, boost mood or improve short- and long-term health. At the moment, however, it’s challenging for link workers to discover local physical activity opportunities to refer service users into, so through this ongoing piece of work we’re aiming to make discovering local sessions straightforward for link workers.
So, social prescribers will soon be able to access more sessions to help the patients they work with?
Exactly! There is a growing number of activities already available in our data feed, many of those happening on a weekly or monthly basis, so there are actually nearly 110,000 sessions available. That’s why we’re now the biggest publisher of social prescribing data not just in London, but across the whole country.
So, what’s next?
Whilst we’ve published a data feed, the real challenge is now getting these sport and physical activity opportunities in front of link workers so they can easily access and recommend activities to patients. Whilst we carry out some technical work in background, which is still needed before we can progress any further, we’re currently convening a group of partners who are interested in working with London Sport to deliver a small number of hyperlocal projects in 2024. This will enable us to test the systems and really understand the impact that open data and physical activity opportunities can have within referral settings to support a range of health and wellbeing outcomes.
If you would like to find out more about this work, or be involved in any of our social prescribing pilots across London, please contact Zakir ([email protected])
You could also reach new audiences for your sports and physical activity sessions by uploading them onto OpenSessions.
About London Sport
London Sport is a charity working to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity.
Supported by Sport England and the Mayor of London, we collaborate with those share our vision, running and supporting projects that help children, young people and the least active adults to embed sport and physical activity into their lives.
For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org
And to find out more about Open Sessions, Get Active and other digital solutions, please contact [email protected]