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Tom Franklin, Ramblers Chief Executive

blog-tom-cut-outImagine you’re putting on a party. You spend a fortune on printing lovely invitations, and send them out to all your friends. But when they arrive, you’ve forgotten to organise any drinks or food. How embarrassing!

The Government’s latest drive to encourage us all to get fit risks making this same mistake. We’ve all seen the splurge of advertising on television and in newspapers for the ‘Change 4 Life’ campaign since the new year. If these ads are the invitations to encourage people to get fit, the Government’s forgotten to provide anything for those who respond to the invitations.

Don’t get me wrong – I think it is good that the Government is prepared to spend money on encouraging people to eat well and get fit. Advertising can be effective. After all, enough money is spent successfully advertising products that make us less healthy. We’ve seen the power of advertising to change public attitudes over issues like drink driving (where, believe it or not, before advertising started in the 1970s more than half of the public thought it was unfair to ask people not to drink and drive if they were going out for a sociable evening).

The problem is when advertising is not backed up by programmes to help people follow through on the messages of the ‘Change4Life’ ads. People are then left feeling guilty and confused – and that can be counter-productive.

The Department of Health is gradually bringing together plans to work with statutory and voluntary organisations to provide community-based health schemes. The Ramblers is one of the charities involved in talking with the Government about ‘Get Walking’ schemes aimed at families and young people. But the Government has talked about this for years – action has certainly not been at the ‘active lifestyle’ pace recommended in the new adverts. I am left with the impression that Ministers find it easier to commission a big advertising campaign, or to get the NHS to purchase a new diet pill, than to work with charities to put in place the schemes on the ground that people need.

In the end, it’s these sort of schemes that can make a real difference to people lives. For more than a year, the Ramblers has been organising ‘get walking, keep walking’ starter schemes in some of England’s most deprived inner cities. The effect on those taking part has been life-changing. People who would never have thought that exercise could be for them have grown in confidence and are now regularly walking on their own, or in groups.

My message to the Government is a simple one. Thank you for inviting people to lead more healthy, active lives. But now you need to provide the resources to assist them to do so.

  • This entry was posted on: Friday, February 20th, 2009 at 12:06 am
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  2 Responses to “Tom Franklin, Ramblers Chief Executive”

      At 12:37 pm on March 4th, 2009 Nicola Murphy wrote:

    Hi Tom Long time no speak! Quite agree!

      At 5:51 pm on March 9th, 2009 Tom Franklin wrote:

    Thanks Nicola, I’ve been doing quite a few radio interviews in the last couple of weeks, linked to the Ramblers new look - and I’ve been surprised at how people really do see the role that walking can play in helping people to get fitter. It’s been really encouraging.


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