Liverpool Football Club has never been in a healthier condition
We're not talking about Fernando Torres' goalscoring exploits or Steven Gerrard's reputation as one of the best players in the world.
This time, it's events away from the pitch that have been gaining plaudits. The club recently scooped the Business in the Community 'Big Tick' award in recognition of its involvement in the Action for Health programme, a long-term project aimed at improving health awareness in North Liverpool.
Action for Health was funded by Liverpool City Council using £380,000 of European Social Fund monies, which was utilised to deliver a range of individual community projects.
These have included health courses for young women, tackling obesity in children, offering health checks for adults, and events focusing on health issues for the over 55s. As well as concentrating its energies on community projects within Anfield's immediate catchment area, the club has broadened its reach to benefit communities right across North Liverpool, which is one of the poorest areas of the UK.
"LFC is deeply involved in partnership with Liverpool City Council and the local community in a range of regeneration projects in and around its proposed new stadium," explains Club Regeneration Director, Andrea Titterington, who was presented with the Big Tick award by Regional Director of Business in the Community, Raksha Pattni, at a glittering ceremony held at the Crowne Plaza.
"These involve capital projects such as the restoration of Stanley Park, the Isla Gladstone Conservatory and the Anfield Sports and Community Centre, as well as programmes relating to health and education, master-planning for housing, employment and community safety.
"The Action for Health programme was developed in response to the high levels of poor health in the North Liverpool population.
"LFC have been the co-ordinator and instigator of the initiative that has been delivered by local people in their own communities. This has helped us reach people in their own environments.
"The club is embedded in the community in a real way. By being environmentally conscious and helping to raise health awareness we hope to play our part in improving these communities, a focus that comes from the ethos of the club being a good neighbour."
It's a Team Effort
Project Manager, Mark Haig, was contracted by the club to oversee the Action for Health programme together with Assistant Project Manager, Christine Mounsey, who is employed by Anfield Breckside Community Council.
This collaborative management structure has been integral to ensuring the delivery of the Action for Health programme through utilising the expertise of local organisations who have offered wider support for community groups.
Delivery partners include Mersey Fire Service, Healthworks, New Beginnings, Heart of Mersey and Blackburne House. LFC's Community Department and Reduc@te have also been heavily involved, and independent evaluation of the project is being provided by the University of Liverpool. Although the initial programme is coming to an end, the success of the initiative has led to additional funding from Liverpool City Council through the Working Neighbourhoods Fund that will allow a range of activities to continue.
"In delivering the Action for Health Programme we wanted to embrace the really good work already undertaken by local North Liverpool agencies, community groups and many individuals who often work on a voluntary basis," said Haig, a specialist in health and lifestyle.
"This work is ongoing, credible and valued by the community. Action for Health attempted to offer initiatives that would motivate, encourage and signpost individuals to local initiatives and services.
"It's all about linking the various agencies and getting people to come out and attend these events.
"For example, the health checks have been very well received and identified health problems that people were totally unaware of while introducing them to primary health care services.
"We have been able to develop strong, local networks while monitoring and evaluating each project to ensure there is something tangible and sustainable for people to benefit from.
"As well as working closely with local partners, we have developed some excellent links with external bodies such as the Primary Care Trust and Leisure Services by tailoring some of the projects to fit their agenda as well as our own."
Action for Health is part of the club's commitment to delivering a better quality of life for local people and it is planned for the issues surrounding healthy lifestyles to continue in the Community Partnership Centre to be located within the new stadium.