Public health: firefighters help fat fighters burn calories

26 Aug 15

Fire brigades across England are now involved in a range of projects aimed at improving the health of their communities following devolution of public health responsibilities to local authorities, a report has found.

The Local Government Association has published research on the collaborations between fire and rescue authorities and councils since devolution of public health spending in April 2013.

Among the examples highlighted in the report was Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service helping keep babies and toddlers safe by distributing cots and Moses baskets to vulnerable families, while Norfolk and Suffolk fire crews help overweight teenagers to become more active by running eight-week activity and nutrition courses. In addition, more than half of the fire authorities have now signed up to the Dementia Friends initiative, which recruits volunteers to visit people living with dementia.

Today’s Beyond Fighting Fires report showed the impact fire and rescue authorities could have in tackling health inequalities in collaboration with other public services, LGA community wellbeing chair Izzi Seccombe said.

“Health is everybody’s business and the fire service has really shown how effective it can be while remaining fully committed to providing the highest standard of emergency incident cover,” she said.

“Firefighters are one of the most trusted professions in the eyes of the public, and this makes them uniquely placed to provide critical advice and support to the most vulnerable members of society. The work they are doing to team up with other local support means that life saving measures can be put in place at very short notice.”

Other examples highlighted include firefighters in Wigan receiving specialist training in public health so they can offer advice during the 6,500 home fire safety checks that they make each year.

The Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service also encourages people to keep active and healthy through its Fire Fit scheme, which includes firefighters going into schools to conduct 60 to 90-minute sessions.

Jeremy Hilton, chair of the LGA’s fire services management committee, said fire and rescue services had helped to reduce the instances of fire by half over the last decade.

“They are now exploring how they can use their expertise in further prevention work to improve the public's health by providing critical interventions, promoting health messages and referring to appropriate services,” he added.

“Over half of all fire related deaths and injuries in the home happen to people over 60 and we know that impairment and disability increase the risk of harm from fires and other hazards too. This work means that not only can we prevent fires and other emergencies, but action can be taken to help people who may not even realise that they need extra help.”

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