Promoting health and wellbeing among Big Issue vendors
Each year The Big Issue Foundation runs a week of activities designed to promote, inform and encourage health and wellbeing among Big Issue vendors across the country. The 2013 Health Week ran from 4-9 November across 9 cities and saw a total of 385 vendors take part in no less than 84 activity sessions!
Health Week is the Big Issue’s initiative to encourage a healthier lifestyle by offering a range of drop-in activities, workshops, check-ups and other services to its vendors. Key to its aims are a raising of vendors’ self-awareness of their own physical and mental health, emphasising the need to make healthy living a priority in often difficult day-to-day circumstances, and increased self-reliance in the longer term to enable vendors to proactively take control of and maintain their wellbeing.
Increasing awareness and building bridges
The four main themes that framed the core objectives for the week were: physical health needs and access to primary care, including GPs, pharmacists, dentists and opticians; mental health and wellbeing; drug and alcohol-related issues; and access to vaccinations and screenings. Across these, the objectives were to increase awareness among vendors of their own needs (and among staff of vendor’s needs) and how to address them; and also to forge new ties and strengthen existing ones between The Big Issue and other agencies providing health-related services locally to each of our offices.
Big Issue offices around the country offered a variety of workshops and activities to these ends and many others, which were informed by health questionnaires completed by a total of 287 vendors and incentivised by goodie bags containing healthy foods, toiletries, and ‘winter packs’ with warm socks, scarves and gloves etc. Many offices encouraged their vendors to come in and take part by arranging free nutritious meals to be given out!
Health check-ups and other basic services
The activities themselves ranged from basic services such as health checks, blood pressure and BMI monitoring, BBV (blood-borne virus) checks, flu jabs and dental checks to specialist advice and workshops on cooking and nutrition, stopping smoking and sports/exercise. Again there was an emphasis on enabling vendors to get registered with the relevant services so as to be able to access them when needed, rather than just once in a drop-in. At Big Issue Nottingham alone 11 vendors had flu jabs and 13 had dental checks, really showing the demand for these sorts of basic services among our vendors.
Mental health and wellbeing
Mental health and wellbeing was another focus and was addressed with dedicated wellbeing advice, meditation, acupuncture, massage, beauty/pampering sessions (very popular in Edinburgh, with six female vendors there taking advantage of the opportunity for a little TLC!) and confidence-building sales workshops.
Helping vendors look after each other
It’s important to enable vendors to look after each other as well as themselves and some of the most frequently held and most popular sessions were the first aid courses, provided by the Red Cross and others. In Bournemouth for example, seven vendors completed the first aid course, with a follow-up quiz cunningly scheduled later in the week to help drum in what was learned. It’s not just in the event of emergency that a first aid certificate can come in useful: Bournemouth vendor June credited the first aid course with helping her to complete her SIA security qualifications shortly after, a huge step along the road to full-time employment.
Helping vendors help others was also the aim of the naloxone training sessions which teach vendors to administer this potentially life-saving antidote in the event of an overdose. In Birmingham alone, 9 of our vendors received naloxone training certificates. It’s important to address drug/alcohol addiction issues since they can be destructive, exacerbate other health problems and block progress in other areas of life. In Nottingham 11 vendors received advice on alcohol problems from Last Orders, a local addiction advice organisation and in Oxford seven vendors received advice on quitting from the Smoking Cessation outreach group, with a link being made with SC to enable regular combined outreach services with TBI from now on.
And lastly, there was even scope for vendors to become involved in running one or two of the activities themselves. Bath vendor Ian, who is on the way to setting up his own cookery business, ran a cooking club session for eight other vendors, which was very well received with many reporting they had learned fresh ideas about healthy foods to eat as well as cooking techniques.
All in all Health Week 2013 was once again highly successful, with nearly 400 vendors participating, often in several different activities, with the promise of further benefits over the coming weeks and months in addition to those gained directly from the week’s activities. Many of those activities were the result of collaborations with other groups dedicated to helping the homeless like ourselves (listed below) and there was much positive feedback all round. Well done everybody who took part and roll on Health Week 2014!
Sponsorship and activity hosting
The Big Issue Foundation would like to say an enormous thank you to the following organisations and individuals who supported health week 2013:
Bath College; Little Theatre; Body Shop; Boston Tea Party; Thyme Deli; BCP Supplies; DHI; Sirona Healthcare; Duff Cooks; DHI; SDAS; Soundwell Music Therapy Trust; British Red Cross; Community Learning Team
Pret a Manger; Body Shop; Lush; Vision Care; British Red Cross; Hair Today Gone Tomorrow (Bourneville College); Phoenix Futures; The Health Exchange
Lush; Discount Health Food Store; Dogs Trust Hope Project; British Red Cross
Buffalo Socks; Lush; Higgins Trust; Wild Oats; British Red Cross; Recovery College; Bridge The Gap; BDP; Compass Health; Brahma Kumaris
Edinburgh Leisure; Barony; Crisis Skylight; Social Bite Cafe; City Barbers
British Red Cross
The Health Shop; Community Nutrition Team; Sainsbury’s; Trussel Trust; NHS Primary Care; Lush; Wellbeing+; Victoria Leisure Centre; Notts County FC (Football in the Community); British Red Cross; Last Orders
Lush; Boswell Chemist; Oxfordshire Waste Partnership; Smoking Cessation; Oxford Mind; British Red Cross
Lush; Oral Health Promotion; Two Saints; Solent Mind; British Red Cross; Homeless Healthcare