How Hammers’ 150Club has helped NHS worker's personal health battle
Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, West Ham United fan 58-year-old Allison Gibbs has been working tirelessly on the front line, caring for dementia patients at the Royal London Hospital.
“It has been pretty frightening and shocking,” Allison said.
“You have to get used to wearing the uncomfortable masks that give you rashes on your face and it almost feels like an allergic reaction. But in times like these, you have to focus and show your love and compassion.”
Whilst supporting the most vulnerable during these unprecedented times, Allison has also been dealing with her own health concerns. Only 18 weeks ago, Allison was referred to the 150Club, run as a partnership between West Ham United Foundation, Newham CCG and Newham Council, after her GP detected high blood pressure and warned that she was potentially at risk of diabetes. Since then, Allison has had to balance new challenges at work, with her new lifestyle routine that has been set by the 150Club.
Taking its name from the recommended 150 minutes of exercise people should take per week, the 150Club is part of an ambitious bid to tackle high rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in Newham by helping people to stay healthier. Currently, the borough has the second highest predicted prevalence rate of type 2 diabetes in England, with more than 24,500 of residents diagnosed with the disease. There are almost 350 active members of the 150Club, which has seen 639 completers of the programme, and this number is ever increasing.
The award-winning 24-week programme is a GP referral scheme which offers local residents aged 18 and over, at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease, a wide range of tailored physical activities to help combat the diseases. It aims to empower local people and enable them to take greater control of their own health.
These patients are supported by lifestyle advisers, who provide them with individual support and guidance. Each individual receives one-to-one assessments and the advisers track their progress to make sure the programme is as beneficial to them as possible.
The 150Club is just one such initiative delivered by the Club that aims to engage with and support the local community. Since 1990, through its community outreach including its Foundation, the Club has been inspiring, motivating and educating; ultimately changing lives for the better.
With the help of Allison’s 150Club lifestyle adviser, she has made drastic changes to everyday life, and continues to make positive progress despite lockdown restrictions.
“During lockdown I've still been in regular contact with my lifestyle adviser, because for her, it’s not just a job”, said Allison. “She really cares.”
Allison continued: “Before lockdown, the 150Club helped me make changes to my lifestyle. It helped change my life around; the way I eat, the way I exercise. When I was out and about, instead of jumping on the bus, I would walk.
“When you go to the 150Club and you are among others and exercising as a group, it’s more encouraging. Also, because you know you’re going to be weighed at the next session, you eat the right things, and stick to healthy food.”
Since adopting those lifestyle changes, encouraged by 150Club, Allison has notice tangible differences to her fitness levels and has become motivated to push herself further.
“I now take the stairs up to work rather than the lift and I’m not huffing and puffing anymore!” She said.
“It encourages me to make those little changes in life. I can bend all the way to the floor and run now!”
Since lockdown measures have come into place, Allison has found it difficult no longer participating in regular group activities, but feels she has the necessary support and encouragement to keep her on track at a time when she needs it most.
Despite activities being unable to run as normal the Foundation has been continuing to offer 150Club participants support through a range of methods including contacting all active members by phone and sending print and email newsletters, delivering regular workouts and healthy eating tips online, as well as setting up a new 150Club members only Facebook group which holds all of the activities, provides additional guidance from lifestyle advisers and shares messages of support and encouragement from the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, who is an ambassador of the ‘Health’ strand of West Ham United’s Players’ Project, and has built an affiliation with the 150Club and its members.
About the 150Club, Zabaleta said: "Health is so important. You just need to do a bit of exercise and look after yourself so you can be healthy and lead a good life, not only for you but your friends and family too."
The West Ham United Foundation runs more than 30 programmes which support 11 strands of the Club’s Players’ Project, driven by players and supported by employees, coaches and volunteers.
The Players’ Project has harnessed the power of elite sport for social good, across one of the most diverse areas in the country. The Club invested £4.7million in the community in 2018-2019 and will invest £28million in total for the boroughs local to the Club, between the move to London Stadium being announced and the end of 2021.
When discussing his own experience with the 150Club, Peter Bell - the 500th person to complete the programme - said: “West Ham really are a local community club - they've not forgotten their roots."