Five or six years ago, by her own admission, life-long Chelmsley Wood resident Teresa Farrell was in despair. Her marriage had ended and she was unemployed and on the verge of homelessness. Just two years earlier, she and her young son had narrowly survived a motorway crash. “My life was falling apart,” she says.
It was at this point that her interests in dance, fitness, physical activity, wellbeing and alternative therapies came together and she set up a sole trader business called Reza Dance Fitness & Music. There were times during that “dark period” when this fledgling business was her “lifeline”. “It got me off the post-traumatic stress medication I was prescribed following the motorway accident,” she says, “but it also convinced that my passion for dance, wellbeing and fitness could help others as it had helped me.”
But it was not until 2013 that these various strands came fully together. “I was at a big tender meeting in Solihull,” Teresa explains, “feeling very out of my depth and not really knowing why I was there. One of the public health people was reading out the health statistics. As you move from the south to north Solihull, life expectancy falls by twelve years.”
The latest State of the Nation’s Health report from Public Health England reveals that Chelmsley Wood residents are among the unhealthiest in the country. Nearly 10% regard their health as bad, against a national average of 5.5%. Rates of death from from cancer (40%), circulatory disease (28%) and coronary heart disease (18%) are all higher than the England average. 31% of adults are classified as obese and its schools have some of England’s most overweight children with 21% of Year 6 pupils classed as obese. Over 80% of residents eat inadequate fruit and vegetables. Rates of binge drinking are high (25%) as are hospital admissions for alcohol-related injuries.
As you move from the south to north Solihull, life expectancy falls by twelve years — Teresa Farrell
Six months later she delivered the first 10-week Push on Wellbeing programme in Chelmsley Wood. “There was no funding for this and it was done on a shoestring,” she says, “but I felt the need was so great in my own community that I had to try and do something.”
Fast-forward three years and Pow CIC has now signed a contract with Solihull Council and Public Health England to deliver eight Pow programmes a year in the Chelmsley Wood, Smithswood, Kingshurst & Hobs Moat areas. The enterprise also regularly sub-contracts as a local community provider with some of Birmingham and Solihull’s key public health agencies.
One of the things that Teresa seems to have a knack for is partnership working — bringing together the kind of people who can add value to the Pow programme, strengthen the offer and attract even more people to health and wellbeing activities. “Some of the really big milestones for us,” she says, “have been some of the wonderful people we’ve been able to work with. We deliver with qualified nutritionists and aromatherapists, for instance. We even brought Strictly Come Dancing stars Natalie Lowe and Ian Waite to deliver their FitSteps programme!”
As well as the many people who simply want to take more active steps to improve their own health and wellbeing, Pow CIC also delivers specific activities for cancer survivors, people with disabilities, older people with dementia, those with long-term health conditions and for carers of all ages.
Teresa believes that Pow CIC has the potential to change health and fitness in the most disadvantaged parts of Solihull. “I think Pow programmes can help communities improve their physical and mental wellbeing,” she says, “and I think we can be part of helping to build stronger communities.” But her ambitions go beyond this. The involvement of West Midlands Fire Service and West Midlands Police in the programme has opened up new avenues for Pow activities in the workplace. “The police are interested in what we do,” she says, “because they see we can help people who are struggling with mental ill-health — and this reduces the burden on the police.” She is convinced that in the longer term local GPs will also see the queues in their waiting rooms diminish as Pow programmes help greater numbers of people improve their health.
How you can help
Pow CIC is growing, thanks to Teresa’s indomitable spirit, determination and energy. But it needs more partners, more volunteers, and more associates able to extend the range of Pow services. It also needs more customers. Perhaps your organisation needs a Pow course? Perhaps you want to be able to deliver Pow programmes for your own client groups?
If you want to be part of this new grassroots approach to health enterprise talk to Teresa Farrell — and see where the power of Pow will lead you.
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