Last Saturday, I spent the day with Boundaries for Life at Lords Cricket Ground for the Royal London One-Day Cup Final. The group, who tours cricket grounds all across the country, offer spectators a series of free health checks and simple healthy lifestyle advice on issues around obesity, cardiovascular disease and mouth cancer.
Fans had their blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels taken and were also given the opportunity to see a dentist who performed a basic mouth examination. With the team looking to role the initiative out to every ground in the UK, here's what we already know about Boundaries for Life and what we might expect moving forward.
People are interested in their health
This comes as no great shock. We are heavily invested in our health, more so now than ever before. We are more aware of what is good and bad for us, from our food and drink to the lifestyle choices we make. Exposure through politics, the media, scientific research, education and health campaigns have meant that our knowledge and understanding about healthy living has grown substantially.
What may be a little surprising however, is the thirst for learning more about our health while at sporting events such as the one on Saturday. At times, it felt like there were as many people walking around the outside of the stadium than on the inside watching the game itself, and the interest that was drawn from a small tent offering simple health checks was remarkable. Tickets to Lords aren't cheap, yet the amount (and variety) of people taking 20 minutes out of the game to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about their general health was highly commendable.
Stadiums continue to support healthy enterprises
The way we watch sport has change. A generation ago, the best way to see live sporting events was to watch it at the venue itself. This is no longer the case. With the majority of sports now covered scrupulously through lucrative television deals, it has made them far more accessible and cost-effective to fans watching at home, or in pubs and bars.
This has meant that stadiums have needed to transform themselves from a purely sporting arena into an all-encompassing entertainment venue. Many now have their own bars and restaurants, live music and performances, carnivals-style games for children, and much more. They are places which we previously spent a few hours in, now they can cater for a whole day out. Within these values, they are increasingly seeing the importance to provide access to healthcare. The relationship between sport and health is a clear one, and with the demographics that live events often draw in, it is a good opportunity to provide good advice to the right audiences - all boding well for organisations like Boundaries for Life in the future.
The group's volunteers are passionate about making a difference
Boundaries for Life is a completely voluntary organisation. Nobody gets paid or makes a profit from what they do, its volunteers are there simply because of their passion for the cause and their commitment for what they do. Headed by its co-ordinator Chet Trivedy, there were nine volunteers working on Saturday's event, all with varying backgrounds and with wide-ranging expertise.
Highly motivated to helping others, the group members are dedicated to improving health across the UK. The group has grown considerably since its inception, and as its popularity and presence becomes more widely known amongst varying health groups across the country, it's easy to imagine the group growing further, even with the possibility of being able to have regional members specifically taking part their own local events.
A downpour at the cricket may not be such a bad thing after all
It's a scene all too familiar.... As the clouds loom above and the rain begins to fall, the covers are rolled out on the wicket and a mass of umbrellas are opened amongst the spectators. While a brake in play may have the television viewers switching over for a few hours, those inside the ground must find alternative ways to preoccupy them during this time. As previously mentioned, these fans who leave their seats now have copious choices available to them - and having a variety of health experts on hand to answer any questions you may have is a fantastic service for access to free healthcare.
Of course not all sports are as weather-dependent as cricket. Perhaps there could be future opportunities at Wimbledon for the group - how about Boundaries for Life running ‘Love for Life'?*
* A somewhat better tennis-based pun probably needed.
An inclusive group that welcomes all kinds of support
What was very apparent on Saturday was how friendly and welcoming the whole group were, not to just myself as a newbie, but to all the people they saw throughout the day. There was no clock-watching or strict appointment times, everybody received the care and support as an individual that they each needed and wanted. No question was too intrusive, and everybody left satisfied and more importantly, reassured.
From their growth in volunteers, the group now has cardio professionals, dental specialists and support for dementia. No doubt the level of expertise of Boundaries for Life will grow even further with prolonged exposure - all to the benefit of those they see during their events.
The aim of the group is to target every cricket ground in the UK and urge them to host at least one Boundaries for Life event each year. There is also an ambition to grow the event beyond cricket into other sporting arenas. Any support, whether it would be financial sponsorship opportunities, samples, or volunteering would be welcomed by the group, so that they can take all the positivity of Boundaries for Life and provide sports fans up and down the UK access great quality free healthcare.