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South Tyneside Council wins prestigious award for its innovative health improvement programme

Councillor Fay Cunningham (Front) is pictured presenting the LGC award to the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Ernest Gibson, Chief Executive Martin Swales and Director of Public Health Amanda Healy

South Tyneside Council has won a prestigious award for its innovative health improvement programme aimed at helping local people to lead healthier lifestyles.

Every Contact a Health Improvement Contact (ECHIC) programme has scooped the public health category of the 2014 Local Government Chronicle Awards which showcases the biggest celebration of innovation and talent across British councils.

The programme aims to encourage behaviour change by supporting frontline Council staff to promote positive health messages to local people.

A record breaking 640 entries were submitted for this year's awards sponsored by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) which praised the programme for its strong evidence base.

Judges recognised the ECHIC programme for its innovative way of encouraging Council staff to provide health advice to the public.

Councillor Fay Cunningham, South Tyneside Council's Health and Wellbeing Lead Member, attended the prestigious ceremony in London.

She said: "It was an honour to accept the award on behalf of the Council's Public Health team. There were over 80 organisations at the event that had been shortlisted for their work to improve services so to win this award is a major achievement.

"We know we face significant challenges with around a fifth of our local children being obese. The gap in life expectancy between certain wards is also vast with some people expected to live 12 up to years longer than others living in different parts of the Borough

"However, we are tackling these challenges and the judges were extremely impressed by the fact that over 550 staff have already taken part in the ECHIC training since last April when the Council took over responsibility for Public Health."

The Council was able to demonstrate how effective the training has been after four employees from its street cleansing team shed around 15 stone between them as a result of the training.

Councillor Cunningham added: "The fact that these four employees were willing to share their incredible weight loss journey with us has really driven home how important this training programme is. I am sure that our local residents and their families will also benefit as a result of these healthy conversations.

"We know we have a high percentage of people overweight in our Borough but this award is testament to the commitment we are making to support local people to live healthier and happier lives.

"With 70 per cent of our workforce living locally, this work is central to making South Tyneside an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families."

The ECHIC training includes advice around smoking, healthy eating, physical exercise, NHS health Checks and wider issues such as debt advice and housing. It has given Council staff the skills to discuss lifestyle issues in their everyday work and the programme is now being delivered through partners and communities. South Tyneside Homes will be the next organisation to benefit from the training.

Local Government Chronicle editor Nick Golding said: "Projects such as South Tyneside Council's demonstrate the level of innovation in British local government today. At a time when resources are scare councils are innovating to ensure they provide residents with the best quality services."

The full list of winners can be found at www.lgcawards.co.uk

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