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Open data-powered solutions could make it much easier for link workers
Open data-powered solutions could make it much easier for link workers

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Potential for open data to prescribe physical activity is growing

Referral services, activity providers and tech companies can utilise the growing potential of open data to prescribe physical activity to adults who are inactive or have long-term health conditions.

A nine-month investigation by London Sport, supported by Mayor of London and National Lottery funding from Sport England, found a positive view and appetite towards using open data.

It is hoped that tech system providers will continue to progress efforts to integrate open data physical activity opportunities alongside referral services and activity providers.

The new report by London Sport found that an open data-powered solution could make it much easier for link workers and/or service users to find a suitable physical activity session.

The use of open data, information that is freely available to everyone to use, would save link workers time when searching for solutions and enable them to make better recommendations.

The report also recommends further testing and development of an open data business case and solutions, and the creation of place-based open data activation approaches.

Long-term, physical activity could play a major part in the government’s NHS Long-Term Plan where hopes are that more than 900,000 patients will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24.

However, the report did highlight the need for physical activity opportunity data to be provided in a way that is more user-friendly for referral services.

Some Open Active feeds found during the research showed physical activity sessions without titles, lacking location details and/or missing, low quality or disengaging imagery.

There were specific concerns about data quality and quality assurance of sessions which reduces tech systems’ ability to implement solutions in the immediate future.

Physical activity providers who successfully upload their sessions via an open data-enabled system could welcome more new members if their offers are picked up by link workers.

Chris Norfield, London Sport’s project lead, said:

“With support from the Mayor of London and Sport England, we’ve been working with partners to explore the potential open data has to make it easier to prescribe physical activity to inactive adults.

“While the restrictions due to covid-19 meant it was not possible to test whether an open data-powered solution leads to more service users being active we have learned plenty since September.

“Link workers and services users were generally positive about open data-powered solutions making it easier to prescribe physical activity and we’ve lot of recommendations for the future.

“We’re confident that our three key recommendations will enhance social prescribing processes and we look forward to taking them forward with a number of partners in the sector.”

Read the report 'Using physical activity open data in referrals settings' here.

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Andrew Lawton

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London Sport aims to make London the most physically active city in the world.

About London Sport

London Sport aims to make London the most physically active city in the world. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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